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Uniqlo under fire for dealing with Chinese factories accused of putting workers at risk

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there seems to be few if any reporters investigating the industrial practices of corporate Japan overseas.

@ warispeace

Your comment piqued my interest, so I did a Google news search on the terms "SACOM" and "ユニクロ" (Uniqulo). There were only a small number of Japanese-language articles on this, and not a single one by a major Japanese media outlet.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

I'm not surprised by this. Why would anyone think Uniqlo would be different than all the other major brands? Cheap production costs plus cheap wages equal higher profits. Japanese companies are just better at keeping this kind of thing out of the mass media.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

What is most troubling is that we don't see more of these reports in the Japanese media about the labour abuses behind huge corporate profits. We can read about "buraku-kigyo" or so-called "black" enterprises that abuse Japanese workers, but there seems to be few if any reporters investigating the industrial practices of corporate Japan overseas.

5 ( +7 / -3 )

A recent Panorama TV show on Apple showed similar concerns, but in reality companies like Uniqlo and Apple are trying harder than most to ensure a fair working environment. If you decide not to buy clothing from Uniqlo, you'll invariably be buying something else made in China, Bangladesh or India by a smaller company, and with no knowledge that the working conditions there were any better. They could be many times worse and could involve child labour. At the least bigger companies will investigate these types of reports and want their supply chain to be ethical. When abuses at smaller companies come to light they're not even newsworthy. All I'm saying is that Uniqlo's conditions will be no worse than most and way better than many. China's government is also silent on this issue.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

With the low prices Uniqlo charges surely no one was under the illusion that the workers in their suppliers' factories were well paid or working in good conditions?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@koiwaicoffee Not all made-in-Japan clothing need cost you an arm and a leg, either. The denim brand Edwin makes most of its unisex jeans in Japan, and they can be found for as little as 4,000 yen a pair when on sale; Gunze undershirts and underpants are usually priced at 800 yen to 1,000 yen (though you should check the labels, since not all are made in Japan); fashionable mens' shirts from Beams are often reasonably priced (6,000 yen to 8,000 yen); and socks made in Japan can be found at most discount clothing stores for less than 800 yen a pair.

For me, the real challenge has been to find reasonably priced everyday athletic/walking shoes that are made in Japan. Thus, I've been sticking with the handful of New Balance models that are still made in the USA. Yes, they cost three times as much as a pair of New Balance sneakers made in China, but they also last three times as long.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It's worth noting: These are NOT Uniqlo factories. They are independent factories that supply clothes to brands worldwide. Every clothing company in the world can use these factories.

The brand (Diesel, Gap, Uniqlo, whoever) come up with their designs and factories basically bid to get the jobs. If the brand had a large clothing line like Uniqlo, they will use many factories at the same time. Some brands may require certain labor standards in their contract, but factories often ignore that part of it.

The Chinese government doesn't crack down on these factories because their main focus is economic growth. If you buy anything at all made outside your home country, you are supporting these factories. On the other hand, if you refuse to buy from developing countries, you put people out of jobs and families go hungry.

It's not a simple problem. At least with big brands like Uniqlo, you can pressure them to check on the factories. With smaller brands or unknown brands, expect the worst. I wouldn't expect Ito-Yokado to be checking up on where their clothes were made.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Can anyone tell me if it's really possible to find clothes "made in Japan"? Apart from artisan products, I can't remember the last time I saw a label stating so.

Some of them are Miki House, Hysteric Glamour and A Bathing Ape.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Regardless of their labor practices, I've found that the quality of Uniqlo garments bought in Japan is absolutely horrendous. Pockets ripping off of cardigans after one use, holes wearing in the seams of sweaters and dress shirts. Buttons popping off of pants. I've never bought clothes anywhere that became useless so quickly.

At least 50% of my clothes are from there and thankfully don't have any of the problems you mention. Worst thing is the sweaters stretch if you don't put them in a net when doing the laundry. Common sense really.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

China sure is putting Mao's vision of a workers' paradise into practice. That huge, evil corporations (especially in the garment industry) would employ slaves in shackles if they could--nothing new. How about the Chinese gov't start enforcing some decent labor standards?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Some of them are Miki House, Hysteric Glamour and A Bathing Ape.

Thanks, I'll check that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Look for things that look out of date.

My kind of shop, according to my wife.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Don't have a lot of Uniqlo items as stores not conveniently located for me/can't find what I want in my size or preferred color. But the cotton t-shirts, wool turtlenecks, socks, underwear that I've managed to get have all been fine quality and lasted years. Husband has more than I do and everything has been okay.

I do love a bargain but would not want it to come at expense of a worker's health so do try to put some thought as to the ethics of the manufacturer. As for non-artisanal made in Japan items, have found things at ItoYokado, including clothing, shoes and purses but it is hit and miss as to whether they'll have size, color, style I want in such an item.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Commanteer "With smaller brands or unknown brands, expect the worst. I wouldn't expect Ito-Yokado to be checking up on where their clothes were made."

Really? I actually would expect them to be checking but if you have evidence to the contrary please let us know. As I mentioned, I have bought a number of different items there that were labelled Made in Japan. The prices were higher than corresponding items, and so was the quality.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Can anyone tell me if it's really possible to find clothes "made in Japan"? Apart from artisan products, I can't remember the last time I saw a label stating so.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@sensenotsocommon

what a stupid and arrogant thing to say in a CSR press release

Here it is in context:

Fast Retailing first learned of the SACOM report at the end of last year, and we moved quickly in view of the serious nature of its claims, by conducting an independent inspection of both facilities. We confirm that, regrettably, the inspection found several problems including long working hours. On the other hand, while the inspection did not reveal some of the problems stated in the SACOM report, Fast Retailing and SACOM have different views on some of the issues described in the report. In view of this situation, Fast Retailing is continuing with the inspection, and we are requesting SACOM to open a dialogue with us as soon as possible.

to me, that looks like a nice way of saying they couldn't verify a few of the claims and are waiting for SACOM to pick up the phone and explain things.

Full English text here: http://www.fastretailing.com/eng/csr/news/1501112030.html

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Uniqlo is evil they also use Bangladesh to make their clothes in the same places all those people died and even after that they still used them for 2 years.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Can anyone tell me if it's really possible to find clothes "made in Japan"?

@koiwaicoffee, check out Mode-off, second-hand shops and boutiques. Look for things that look out of date.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Welcome to the race to the bottom.

Uniqlo, a unit of Fast Retailing Co, said that while it had “different views on some of the issues” in the report...

what a stupid and arrogant thing to say in a CSR press release

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

One question: What's the Chinese government doing about it? It is ultimately their responsibility.

Fact is that not just Uniqlo, but many companies do their manufacturing there.

I'd pay a little more knowing products were not manufactured by mistreated workers, but if their wages went up, using other country's labour becomes more profitable. That would have a drastic effect on Made-in-China goods. I would not mind buying elsewhere.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

The group said one employee worked up to 14 hours per day, ironing between 600 and 700 shirts, for wages of 0.29 yuan ($0.05) per shirt.

If the employee irons 700 shirts, that's $35 a day. If he works 5 days a week, that's around $750 a month or $9000 a year. China's GDP per capita in 2013 was $6,800. Working 14 hours a day is certainly not healthy, but that's not a bad salary for a factory worker in China.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

Too many times I see articles to the world about low wages. But what they don't tell the world is that that particular wage in that particular country is a lot of money. If somebody is going to write such an article, don't make a company look bad because you "think" that salary is low when you compare it to your own. Check your facts.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

In this day and age, for factories to still subject workers to these conditions is sad.

If you buy from Uniqlo, then YOU are part of the problem.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Regardless of their labor practices, I've found that the quality of Uniqlo garments bought in Japan is absolutely horrendous. Pockets ripping off of cardigans after one use, holes wearing in the seams of sweaters and dress shirts. Buttons popping off of pants. I've never bought clothes anywhere that became useless so quickly. Except maybe Gap.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

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