Before Barack Obama follows through on tough talk about global “labor standards,” Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wants to take him to a certain garbage heap in Cambodia. Here, where families live in shacks, scavenging in the hot sun, a sweatshop job is “a cherished dream, an escalator out of poverty.” Such places need more sweatshops, not fewer, Kristof writes.
“I’d love to get a job in a factory,” said one 19-year-old scavenger. “At least that work is in the shade.” Living in East Asia, Kristof has seen sweatshops improve the standard of living. Raising labor standards will encourage more expensive factories in better-off places like Malaysia. Cambodia needs those jobs. “It’s dirty, hot and smelly here,” says a 13-year-old of the heap. “A factory is better.”