Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shopping Bags And Fair Wages

We are certainly getting near the end of the year now, I can see it just there. Last week I had the first Christmas lunch for the season with some amazing women, they are artists and crafters and writers and have incredible imagination, talent, compassion and love, and they all have a wonderful laugh. I am so thankful they are in my life :)

Our number one and only son finishes school this week and next year is in Year 10, can't believe it, he is still a skinny thing, though is now getting taller and starting to broaden in the shoulders. So eight weeks off school and we have to have a plan. There will be painting and drawing, building and mowing and he will also once a week go off to work with my partner in crime and life.

This silly season always gets me thinking about a lot of different things and the one I am thinking about at the moment is sewing. I have made these shopping bags, which are reversable depending on what colour you are feeling on the day,(because I have an unnatural obsession with shopping bags but not shopping) and I love them and plan to make a few more.

However, with everyone so obsessed with getting a bargain when shopping, it makes me think about the real value of things. Now these bags that I have made I would think they would be worth about $1000. Yes that is right. Do you know why? The time and effort put in to making these seemingly simple bags, for me anyway as a non sewer, was a fair bit, despite the materials only being about $15 for one and the other about $2, as it is made from op shop sheets (like my clothes).

I also expect these bags to last for at least 200 years for the time, effort, broken needle, bent pins and the physiological trauma. Yet we expect to buy things, new, for $5 and $10 with no thought for the person who made it, and if it breaks tomorrow well, they are only cheap so we will go buy another. Is there an eight year old child out there making our goods for just enough money to survive on and don’t’ tell me they should be thankful for a job that only pays them just enough to survive on and not being able to go to school, instead of having no job, because that is not good enough.

Parents who barely have enough money to feed their kids, and they are probably still hungry anyway, or can just put a roof over their heads, don’t tell me they should be thankful for only JUST being able to do these things. Have you seen the documentaries that show the conditions that some of these people live in? I know it isn’t always like this but it is like this a lot.

So when I make these very simple things (and get frustrated as it takes me about twenty times the amount of time I think it should) I think of people around the world making products to earn just enough to buy food for that day just so we can pay a pittance for something because we don’t want to spend a few dollars more so that people can be paid a fair wage and so that children can be children and get an education.

So while you are out spending all that money for presents for family and friends, just think about who has made the product and how do you think they will spend Christmas. If they only earn enough to survive day to day, I don’t’ think they will be having Christmas, and yet we really didn’t want to pay more than $5 for that top or pair of shorts or $2 for that toy.

We should pay a fair price for our products, we should value our things more and we should not take more than our share. So while out shopping with the crazy people, while pushing past people and small children in your rush to buy that thing that is on special and you only have to pay $12 for it rather than say $20, just stop and think. Has someone been paid a fair wage for the work they put in to this thing you are about to buy? Because I can tell you, that if you had to make this thing yourself, you would demand a hell of a lot more than just enough to eat for the day.

Take a look at these articles if you don't believe me and think about some ethical gifts this Christmas, or even just making sure you know about the product you are buying. The amount of articles are endless and I dare you not to cry.

Look here
Workers exploited in Melbourne sweat shops
Living in a garbage tip
Nestle 'to act over child labour in cocoa industry'
Look at this.
Child sweatshop shame threatens Gap's ethical image
Nike Shoes and Child Labor in Pakistan
Sweat shops in Australia


  1. wow, what an eye opener - I never thought that was happening here in Australia.

  2. These articles are very sobering indeed !

  3. What a sad reality our society has become. Thanks for the timely reminder.

    I love your shopping bags by the way and am very excited you are going to do some painting! will you be posting pictures of your artwork? I'd love to see! x

  4. Thank you for the reminder. It will prompt me to continue to watch where something is made. I'm from the U.S. so try to buy items produced in the states. It can be hard to find and frustrating when many things are made out of country. We used to be a country of producers and now it seems we have become a country of consumers. That's another 'soap box'. of mine. Again thank you for the reminder.
    Robin from the Roost