From Sex Worker to Seamstress: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes

From Sex Worker to Seamstress: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes

[Music] over the years Cambodia has become one of the world’s capitals of sex tourism it’s cheap and available prostitutes attracting men from around the world the sex industry has different rungs to it there’s streetwalkers that do the five dollar blowjob there are brothels there’s massage parlors and then there are the bars where you go in you get serve drinks and the girls will go home with you there are tens of thousands of women who are doing that here in Cambodia the US government has long worried that many of these women were victims of human trafficking and put pressure on Cambodia to crack down and since Washington provides some six hundred million dollars a year in development aid the Cambodian government finally listened in 2008 it launched an aggressive new anti trafficking and prostitution campaign but there have been reports that it was doing more harm than good so we went to see for ourselves boys all by the way so we’re out on patrol the anti-trafficking unit from the Ministry of the Interior we’re going on a raid to get some women who have been illegally trafficked that’s all we know right now they’re taking their phones right now so the girls won’t call ahead to other operations to other brothels it’s a very happy scene right now [Music] oh my god this is this is but as dark as it gets right here Oh where did they go now what do you do with the girls I thought man can be tiny don’t know what if I compared a young man that can be the main union between time young disaffected by scientist and inanimate objects inside not before and this is the crux of Cambodia’s anti-trafficking program sex workers brought into police custody are given a simple choice except training for a new career or remain in custody indefinitely vulnerable to abuse and shakedowns by corrupt police with these options most women choose retraining almost always for work in Cambodia’s booming garment industry since the Cambodian government started its crackdown in 2008 authorities claim to have rescued and retrain thousands of women from the sex industry what at first glance seem like better jobs but we soon learned that many of these women didn’t want to be rescued at all at the end of this long abandoned train track is a makeshift squatter camp it’s the home to one of the rescued sex workers a mother named Paul Poli so today after paulie’s arrest police released her into the custody of a local NGO that would prepare her for her new career but sceptile mom loose at the I get up off on deck to obey but fear my young hai Nam will hope job god man nada the NGO would train her for work in the garment industry which employs a half million Cambodians and makes up 80% of the country’s exports at first it sounded like an opportunity for a fresh start and Cambodia’s biggest industry the reality was very different so were you making any money while you were in the training union Hanoi day I an8 a well-known Antonio Inoki I would love a knee-high um no no Mia now they all think I’m gonna we spoke to several women with similar stories and they told us that life didn’t get much better after they finally entered the workplace garment workers here get a base salary of $80 a month the minimum wage that’s barely enough to feed a family a diet of rice alone and pay rent in a shack and pnom pan or live in factory barracks like these sang-soo a man tries to support her family working long hours in the garment factory but it’s still not enough to get by how much is your rent for your house I said all right now don’t I think my own hoping behind Island hey dude I seen all kinds doing that going to and don’t make that big wooden anything high five something’s coming like dog here Jim I hang you up on the phone I’m told how I’m doing when I won’t get done tonight buddy hope I think let’s hope my hide it on my own today to make ends meet she now moonlights as a prostitute every night earning just eight dollars per customer we look around the world where the garment industry is flourishing what attracts a garment industry it tends to be with the rule of law is weakest and where people are so desperately poor that I’ll master almost willing to work under any conditions David Welsh is an organizer at the Solidarity Center a labor rights group out of the United States it’s affiliated with the afl-cio it’s not indentured slavery or servitude but in a way it is throughout the supply chain incredible amount of money is being made by these brands a significant amount of money to be made by the factories the workers are nowhere near a living wage and that’s where the margins are desperate for jobs and fearful of crackdowns by the authoritarian Cambodian government garment workers have four years stayed quiet but conditions have gotten so bad because they are now starting to push back we’re just outside the capital where dozens of clothing manufacturers for Western brands sprawl out for miles hundreds of garment workers were picketing for a second day and things were tense these women are protesting striking the base existence they want to be paid for just that morning thugs had come and beaten some of the strikers with clubs and that pushed the women to their boiling point we wanted to see the factory conditions that led these women to strike but these factories are notoriously difficult to get into especially with cameras can you take inside solidarity we are not allowed in this Factory but if the workers all protect us then we can go in so they’re taking us in to pick up the pot a little bit security guys making calls right before long someone from management showed up to greetings [Applause] [Applause] normally it is 3000 women no nose to the grindstone sitting here all day every day six days a week for maybe $80 a month and they’re supposed to feed their families with that by all definitions Cambodia’s garment factories are sweatshops literally and some factories there have been mass faintings and women have been hospitalized by the hundreds on the floor at berry we sell labels for hmm Old Navy Benetton and Russell athletics over several weeks we reached out to all of these brands but no one wanted to talk to us on camera the management of the berry factory told us that none of this was a problem at their shop the bay treated their workers well and even paid them more than the minimum wage and then for some reason they wanted me to be the one to convince their workers of all that you can spend today it’s not it’s not appropriate for me to get involved in these contract negotiation I had no intention of being a mouthpiece of the factory management so I took this opportunity test the workers directly what they are actually paying their bodies are saying that the bit of momentum is happy for 80 dollars and that you are actually dead made less 75 to 200 is that correct [Applause] this entire dispute which has led to the walkout and strike was all over what amounted to a $4 per month raise and the very fact that Barry’s management actually invited us to see their factory strongly suggests that the conditions there are far above average many others in Cambodia and throughout Asia are far worse like a factory making sneakers for Asics wear roof collapsed in 2013 and killed two workers and injured seven others the working conditions in the garment industry have gotten so bad that strikes by workers and clashes with the authorities are now almost routine the government is starting to get worried that all this unrest will hurt business in January 2014 police open fire on demonstrating garment workers killing at least four these riots threaten the destabilize cambodia in all this so you can spend a few dollars less on our t-shirts it’s crazy when you go into a big retailer in America and you can find a hoodie played ten bucks like if you think about it how could it be that cheap the only way is that the people who are making the product are getting paid peanuts and that’s what’s going on here [Music] many of the sex workers pushed into garment jobs told us they didn’t want to be rescued at all the women we spoke to said the pay and conditions are actually better on the streets if you quit being a sex worker would you go back to the garment industry Councilwoman Ivo meant well but my to mark the aliens o-mint laptop some tile men will chop some tongue until t attack and here’s a sad bit of irony about Cambodia’s rescue program a number of studies have found that most of Cambodia’s sex workers weren’t victims of trafficking after all for now women are choosing prostitution over garment work and that more than anything it’s a very stark picture of what the reality is for Cambodia’s girls and women [Music] [Applause] [Music]


100 thoughts on “From Sex Worker to Seamstress: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes”

  • Like it's our fault they have to work in these conditions, if making clothes is that cheap why we still have to pay a lot of money for it.  Remember Nike Air Max we pay those shoes 150$ and they make them for like 10$.  It's not our fault is the fault of this corrupt capitalism and those big guys who never got enough money and don't pay their taxes or pay a dime but a normal working citizen is getting robbed with taxes they just can keep themself happy (but in debt, so they have to work whole their life).  Not saying it is has bad as you see these ppl bcz what's happening overthere is just miserable those ppl got no life at all working day and nite for just paying their rent.  I already heard somewhere China is too expensive so they go to even poorer countries as Vietnam, Cambodia, india etc…  DOn't blame us for this blame those fucking capitalists who are never happy even they make profit but not as much profit as last year so it's good for them to take their bussines and go to an even poorer country were ppl and kids are forced to work for a dime….

  • No use of going after these girls..The US government pays 600 million dollars of their hard earned money to stop Human  trafficking. So instead of harming these girls might be they can target the pimps and the Human traffickers…Break the trafficking routes. 

  • It is very sad to see that there are no regulations to stop those sweatshops from doing dirty businesses due to corrupted government.

  • Yeah.. the US gov't pressures the Cambodian gov't to "re-educate" these women so that their labor can be exploited reputably. Pimps aren't the only ones who need to put food on the table. Nike needs cheap labor too.

  • I am a Cambodian living in America. It's sad that those girls get only two choices: working in a dead end factory job or prostitution. The translation in this documentary was lack in detail, she said many things and you gave only one sentence. You did get the point across, but I think if I was to read those subtitle as a non-Khmer speaker. You might not really know what those girls are really going through. Over all, it was a great documentary beside from the translation. 


    Anti trafficking campaigns have proven to be a HUGE FAILURE and massive human rights violations are being committed thanks to these efforts and the narratives involved. It is time to DECRIMINALIZE!!!

  • Cambodia is the child sex trafficking capital of the world are we just going to ignore that so reporters on vice can enjoy cheap prostitutes?

  • Lots of misinformation. The street were he walked in the beginning is full of hostessbars. Those girls easily make 600 too 900 dollars a month. Of course they don't want to work in a fucking sweatshop. and to add to that. Most of those bars are British owned and the girls that work there get vacations and the right to deny any and all customers. Most of them make enough on ladydrinks that the guys buy them. Now of course they are only a small percentage of all girls working. Prostitution isn't really something looked down upon in khmer culture. Many times its encouraged by the parents when the girl is pretty. An entire family can live on of those girls salary.

  • I am Cambodian. And I know Cambodia has lots of prostitutes. But most people of the strip clubs are really creepy. But gladly, I am in America which is good. And do you wanna know why is their strip clubs creepy?

    1 Reason: They have sex in their dirty bathrooms and in their red-lighted rooms.

    Another Reason: There is lots of Phnom Penh prostitutes are getting killed because men would want a free blowjobs and sex instead of paying for it.

    Last Reason: (Same as the second one) Their is blood in some of their strip club bathrooms.

  • sigh but Cambodian women r so beautiful, 🙁 that mom has some gorgeous eyes she can be a model or something. why resort to sex:(

  • Please, people out there; please don't stop buying from those brands that they were talking about in this documentary, if you do so you're actually going to lower the Money the factory gets and the salary the girls are getting will get even lower as well and you'll end up starving their families even further than they are right now.

  • Michael Hudric says:

    I'm in my late 30s, but have no problem in the bedroom – but I need a little zing/pep so I decided to get superlongnight male enhancement pills. ( website is w…superlongnight…c ) It works great – it makes you feel horny, gives you girth, raging boners and prolonged sessions in the bedroom – all of which are desirable. Also, it makes your bowel movement a little more active than usual.

  • Either the sweatshop executives are lying about the workers' salary or someone between them is pocketing the extra money.

  • Archibald Linconburra says:

    I think it is really quite arrogant of the west to send in the NGOs and all the rest to eradicate prostitution in Cambodia and other places. They aren't improving conditions for the girls or their families, they are making them poorer and forcing them to work for international corporations as slaves. Imposing western ideals and morals on other cultures seems presumptuous to me.

  • Norris Thomas says:

    I have a solution perhaps for a reduction of your margins pay them more. This shouldn't fall back on us. But never we will have to suffer so big boss wont have to lose 100 million dollars so a couple thousand people can be brought out of poverty.

  • packinwood2009 says:

    I'm getting really sick of all the "human trafficking" bullshit propaganda. Where else can someone with no skills, education, work ethic, ect… get paid $1000/day for laying there? Holy shit. If it would get me out of that sweat shop, I'd take a shot in the mouth too.

  • Gabriel Hasbun says:

    This is disgusting. One has to be a psychopath in order to support those garment companies: Adidas, Ascics, Russel, H&M, United Colors of Benetton, Old Navy.

  • I'd be more than happy to pay £5 more for a garment knowing these workers got their fair wage. Laws in countries like Cambodia would be needed, to make sure factory owners paid up or faced huge fines to compensate any underpaid worker/s. Also I try to buy second hand, as that way I am not buying a new garment but reusing an older perfectly decent one, and not paying into this first hand. Yes it may have been made in a sweatshop, but if more people did this, the big brands customer base would fall, and they'd have to ask why.

  • I am so angry that privileged people think this is a good idea for anyone. This not only happens in Cambodia, it happens in the United States also. SWAN Colorado clients have been forced into menial wage jobs (yes, human trafficking victims are charged with crimes related to their trafficking) when on probation. This charging is not only wrong but creates too many barriers to women's lives. NO ONE CAN LIVE OFF OF $ 9.00 per hour wages and support their kids, pay probation and urine analysis costs and thrive. I am not sure why human trafficking victims are forced into situations where their lives become MORE unmanageable. It makes sense to only those who think it is a good thing but then again, the human trafficking terror was NEVER designed to help. It was designed to end prostitution under the guise of helping. Just ask Dr. Swanee Hunt! You will see he goal in plain English on the Hunts Alternative website. To quote Dr. Yvonne Zimmerman "No one is "for" human trafficking." But we have seen women struggle when in theory, they should be recovering and empowered. The Trafficking In Persons Report is very clear on their recommendations:

    1. No charging.
    2. The ability to make decisions of their own accord immediately and that include the right to attend treatment or not.
    3. Not having to cooperate with law enforcement.
    4. Not having to cooperate with the convictions of their pimps or traffickers.
    5. Immediate access to resources if they ask for them.

    If, you are not doing the above, you are no better THAN a pimp or a trafficker.

  • Trust me, you watch these video today. Few weeks later, you will forget the message of this video and start buying stuff from major clothing brands mindlessly.

  • Even Africans get paid a higher minimum wage. I'm sorry for these people's conditions but people need to stop thinking that Africa is the worst place on Earth. Most often it is much better in Africa than in these countries.

  • Hollywood Insider says:

    LMAO the garment industry lobbied the US government to put pressure on Cambodia to get an increase in the supply of low cost labour. And anyways, these garment workers are still earning more than if they had no job.

  • when i was young i thought that a factory was a place that machines did all the work i didn't know there was people so when i saw all these fires and when buildings fall down i thought no one was harmed but in reality i am so shocked how can people be so cruel and do this to there own kind

  • wait, do the people who are forced into sex work economically have ways to to pay for protection?, or do they get more kids wich lleads to needing more money?

  • Courtney Polk Jones says:

    so is this the cost of name brand clothes, shoes, purses omg this is horrible I buy name brand clothes omg I would let them live with me but I would rather be a hooker as at least I could chose when where and how this way of life is fukking worse

  • Milo Milosavage says:

    You Jesus Christs and Mohammeds are idiots ok , please for Gods sake how much will they be paid. This is a country in the early stages of development ok acquiring technology and management skills and you go there to distabilize it.Those women should go and marry they love to fuck you cannot stop that nature of theirs.

  • i'd rather save up for an American, or Swiss made item of clothing that will last, than to buy cheap, falling appart slave clothes. idc about your excuse for buying lots of cheap clothes, you dont need 100 outfits, save your money and buy american, you spoiled brats.

  • All in all it comes down to the problem that we can't stop the rich who throws around their money, especially in the face of authorities to weld their modern tyrant laws in developing towns of countries.

  • Johannes Vanneste says:

    Where can I find these studies that say the sex workers aren't victim of trafficking? Not that I don't believe it, but I need the information for own research…

  • Jason LeBlanc says:

    Doesn't matter how many times anyone brings real shit to the light. People are so brainwashed by brands.

  • Hannah martian00 says:

    I would rather sit behind a sewing machine working as a seamstress any day than selling my p***y on the street risking my life with exposure to diseases or possibly getting murdered and getting my face pummeled by an angry pimp on heroin!

  • Hint: if your operation involves any kind of "re-education department", there's an extremely good chance that you're doing something wrong.

  • THE 6 MIRACLES OF SOCIALISM: There is no unemployment, but no one works No one works, but everyone gets paid Everyone gets paid, but there is nothing to buy with the $$ No one can buy anything, but everyone owns everything Everyone owns everything but no one is satisfied

  • this is such bullshit, american business know this country, anything they want including snuff and torture. Great Britain also part of drug and human trafficking

  • to fixed this problem stop buying brands that make everything overseas i only buy Made in America caused i know those American companies overseas paid people like shit

  • I blame the corrupt Cambodian government, what kind of government would allow their people such lives, shameful.

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