Human Rights


"The export processing zone is worse than a concentration camp"

Pakistan National Federation of Trade Unions


Poverty wages are a major issue in the EPZs. Low wages cost the children of EPZ workers the nutrition they need to grow and learn. As one worker responds, “the wage is never enough for the family needs. I have to borrow money at 20% interest per month. I can never hope to spend my salary, because all of the money I earn will immediately be used to pay the debt and I start to borrow again…the circle of debt begins.” In the Dominican Republic, there are labor and minimum wage laws, but as we will see later, these wages are not sufficient.

In some factories, workers are not allowed to use the bathroom when they desire. As a result, workers develop urinary tract and kidney infections. Work breaks in factories are about as common as snowfall in Florida. Managers force their employees to meet production quotas, but because they are so high it doesn’t leave much time for occasional breaks. Another problem in some factories is the quality and availability of drinking water. There have been some cases where workers were given infected drinking water, developing diseases that they can’t afford to remedy.


Forced labor and overtime are common in almost every EPZ in the world. It is occasionally enforced through loss of pay or jobs for those who refuse. As you can imagine, factories are understaffed and therefore workers are forced to do extra when production quotas are high. In violation of human rights, managers sometimes lock down the factory in an effort to meet production quotas.


In the zones, women are most definitely exploited the most, mainly because women account for more than 80% of the labor force. They are sometimes forced to take contraceptives such as birth control, and even some cases where they had to have abortions or else lose their jobs. It is not uncommon for pregnancy tests to be done during the hiring process. A positive test equals no employment. Also, pregnancy during employment almost always results in early termination with no guarantee of pay. Abortion is often the result of pressure to keep working. As you can imagine, the conditions and methods used to have an abortion are not the best for the women workers, which further endanger their risk of disease.


Child labor is prohibited in the Dominican Republic. However, that does not keep employers from hiring them. Much like women, the lack of education and inability to organize or protest make children a prime target of EPZs. Another reason for child labor is their eyesight and flexibility, which are needed to perform the tasks in the zones.












Sexual harassment is another major problem in EPZs. Women have filed complaints about holes in the bathroom walls and two-way mirrors, where men look in on them using the restroom. This is merely speculation, but women who are desperate for employment are sometimes subject to the hiring managers demands, which could be sexual.


Punishment is also administered in the EPZs. In Honduras, “workers are forced to hold a chair over their head for half an hour or an hour. If they lower it before the time is up, they are suspended from their job(source: El Heraldo, 25 February 1994, Honduras).” Another punishment consists of forcing workers to stand still like a statue, with their eyes fixed on a point on the wall. If workers are accused of not respecting production quotas, they are punished by being forced to stay out in the full glare of the sun.



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*These facts do not necessarily represent the situation in the Dominican Republic


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