October 30, 2007 —
An investigation by the UK's Observer has revealed Gap clothing being manufactured by children as young as eight, under unspeakable conditions. It appears that at least one of Gap's Indian vendors subcontracted a portion of its orders to child sweatshops.
The children working in that factory have since been rescued from a life of slavery by Indian authorities. The Observer says they were sold by their parents to sweatshop recruiters and taken to factories where they were beaten and forced to work from morning until after midnight without pay.
In 2000, after a BBC investigation revealed widespread child labor abuses in Gap's factories, the company began to work vigorously to cleanse its image. It now employs nearly one hundred inspectors to monitor its overseas vendors, and claimed in its most recent corporate responsibility report that more than 60 percent of its factories had rated "good" or "excellent."
For its part, Gap has pulled more than 10,000 garments from its supply chain to ensure that it doesn't sell any of the products produced by the sweatshop in question. It has also deployed representatives to India to investigate the matter, and reiterate its policies on child labor and subcontracting.
But as this story develops, Gap has yet to sever ties with the vendor it says is responsible for abuses, raising questions about its commitment to backing up its labor standards with action.