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Students for Sweatshops!

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

Well-meaning American university students regularly campaign against sweatshops. But instead, anyone who cares about fighting poverty should campaign in favor of them, demanding that companies set up factories in Africa. Sure, sweatshop work is tedious, grueling, and sometimes dangerous. But over all, sewing clothes is considerably less dangerous or arduous—or sweaty—than most alternatives in poor countries. To get more companies to set up factories in Africa, one push needs to come from African countries themselves: a crackdown on corruption and red tape. But another useful step would be for U.S. students to stop trying to ban sweatshops and instead campaign to bring them to the most desperately poor countries.

Nicholas D. Kristof [6/6/06]