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Insight: Italy's Chinese garment workshops boom as workers suffer
Insight: Italy's Chinese garment workshops boom as workers
By Silvia Aloisi
PRATO, Italy Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:11pm EST
PRATO, Italy (Reuters) - Shen Jianhe lost each the girl job and residence when Italian police shut
down your ex garment factory within the Tuscan city of Prato.
By day, the particular 38-year-old mother associated with 4 would sew trousers at among the nearly
5,000 workshops operate by Chinese immigrants in Prato, which mainly prove inexpensive clothes
for fast-fashion companies inside Italy and also across Europe.
At night the lady slept in the plasterboard cubicle hidden behind the wooden wardrobe at the Shen
Wu factory - until the authorities arrived one cold December morning. That They sealed the actual
doors and also confiscated the particular 25 sewing machines beneath the crackdown by making use
of an sector which is booming yet blighted simply by illegality along with sweatshop conditions.
Amid rolls involving fabric, meals leftovers along with dangling electric cables lay Shen's belongings:
any pink baby coat, the blue children's stool, a new laptop. The Girl stuffed these people in for you to
a van, ready being transported away.
"What choice do I have?" said Shen, tears filling your ex eyes.
Prato, the particular historical money associated with Italy's textile business, has attracted the
particular largest concentration of Chinese-run business within Europe inside less than 20 years.
As many as 50,000 Chinese reside along with work in the area, creating clothes bearing the prized
"Made in Italy" label which in turn sets all of them apart via garments produced throughout China
itself, even at the lower end of the fashion business.
In a few ways, the Chinese community involving Prato has succeeded where Italian companies have
failed. Italy's economy provides barely grown more than yesteryear decade and is simply just
emerging through recession, partly thanks towards the inability of numerous tiny manufacturers to
maintain on top of global competition.
Yet Prato, which in turn lies 25 km (16 miles) from your Renaissance jewel of Florence, can also be
the thriving hub associated with illegality dedicated simply by both Italians along with Chinese, any
byproduct regarding globalization gone wrong, many individuals within the area say.
Up in order to two thirds with the Chinese inside Prato are usually illegal immigrants, according to
local authorities. Concerning 90 percent with the Chinese factories - virtually almost all associated
with that are rented out in order to Chinese entrepreneurs by simply Italians which very own the
buildings -break what your law states in various ways, says Aldo Milone, the actual city councilor in
command of security.
This includes using fabric smuggled via China, evading taxes and grossly violating health and labor
regulations. This particular month a new fire, that prosecutors suspect has been trigger by simply an
electric stove, killed seven workers as they slept in cardboard cubicles at a workshop.
Italian officials acknowledge they haven't cracked down efficiently around the mushrooming illicit
Prato mayor Roberto Cenni, himself a new textiles entrepreneur, arrived in 2009 promising to clean
up the particular area. Cenni says he features trebled inspections since then, but nevertheless just a
little fraction with the factories are monitored regularly.
"We don't possess the ability to battle this method involving illegality," he said, noting in which Prato
just has 2 labor inspectors.
In some cases, neighborhood officials talk about your blame. Prato chief prosecutor Piero Tony
ordered the arrest of 11 people this month, including an urban area council employee who's
suspected of issuing false residency permits - for among 600 as well as 1,500 ($820-$2,100) euros
the piece - in order to more than 300 Chinese immigrants since May.
Most regarding Prato's Chinese result from Wenzhou, the coastal city in Zhejiang province. That
They began flocking in order to Prato inside the mid-1990s for you to are employed in Italian-owned
textile factories and swiftly mastered the complete production chain.
Andrea Cavicchi, local head with the Confindustria enterprise lobby, says China's entry within the
Globe Trade Organisation inside 2001 sounded your death knell for a lot of involving Prato's nearby
garments artisans as trade barriers imposed by the European Union to end up being able to protect
its suppliers were progressively phased out.
As nearby companies specialized within high-quality fabric began reducing work opportunities for
you to contend with cheaper foreign imports, Chinese entrepreneurs started renting abandoned
Italian warehouses in order to create their own factories. Gradually, the particular Chinese involving
Prato offered the speed, efficiency as well as higher productivity that many Italian organizations had
Now that they export an extraordinary amount of low-cost garments - the woman's cotton shirt will
expense you beneath two euros, a coat regarding 12 - across the continent. The Particular Prato
branch of Confindustria estimates ecommerce will possibly end up being worth two billion euros any
year, or perhaps half your turnover involving Italian-run textile producers inside the district.
"Between 2001 and 2011, the particular Italian textile business in Prato offers seen its turnover and
its workforce halve. Nevertheless the reality will be we're not able to truly blame the particular
Chinese. The Particular problem is our labor and also energy expenses imply we could not compete,"
says Cavicchi. "Speed is crucial. Within just 3 times they tend to be able to churn out thousands of
garments. And Also the last outcome - even though it's inexpensive cloth imported from China - can
Trucks ferry your clothing to end up being able to customers inside the major European markets
within per day or perhaps two. Throughout your fast-changing fashion business, this provides the
Prato workshops any competitive edge over rivals inside China, which just take 40 times for you to
ship their own output through sea in order to Europe.
Outside Prato's metropolis walls, the key Through Pistoiese offers turned right directly into a
bustling Chinatown, together with Chinese restaurants, hairdressers, schools, travel agents, and also
youths practicing the actual style regarding Tai Chi in the park.
For many years, Prato's neighborhood government does little about the developing Chinese
community, whose presence helps the actual neighborhood economy. "There would end up being a
tacit pact to look one other way, because the Chinese were additionally bringing inside a lot of
money, helping cushion the particular impact of the global financial meltdown about the region,"
mentioned Massimo Bressan, the researcher about immigration problems with Prato's Iris institute.
When Cenni became Prato's mayor, he promised
to revive your rule of law within the capital of
scotland- just below 200,000. In addition in
order to helping the quantity of inspections
about factories, the actual nearby government
raised the price of reclaiming confiscated
machinery and released the decree that enables
a warehouse to be declared "unfit" until it meets
But part of the issue is often that 60 percent involving Chinese workshops last just two years,
frequently closing and also reopening under the distinct identify in order to evade checks through
tax authorities. Illegal immigrants discovered by the police are ordered to depart Italy within 5 days,
nevertheless there is no way of creating certain they really do so, mentioned the town councilor
regarding security, Milone. "It's a joke," he said.
Moreover, many illegal immigrants arrive about three-month tourist visas nevertheless stay in Italy
for a couple of years, until they make adequate funds to go back to end up being able to China.
"I have completed inspections regarding 15 years, and I can easily let a person know that will for
every factory we close, another one will sprout the particular next day. Here your attitude will be too
lax, there exists a form of connivance," stated a new judicial police officer that failed to want being
named simply because he is not really able to speak for the press.
Outside your Teresa Moda factory which usually went up within flames this month, charred coat
hangers and rolls of material lie scattered on the ground, the particular remains involving burnt
black out curtains preventing individuals via seeking inside.
"Pain features absolutely no color" study the sheet associated with paper away from gate taped over
photographs of the seven victims, whom police say took times to recognize because relatives had
been also scared to always be able to come forward. 1 in the dead suffocated while he tried to
escape via a window guarded by iron bars.
A Chinese worker that had come to spend his respects said he created normally 70 shirts each day
and also ended up being paid out 70 cents for each shirt. in an excellent month, the worker - that
mentioned he has been afraid to offer his title - mentioned he could earn 1,500 euros.
Nearby, at the Shen Wu factory workers had regularly sat in their own sewing machines regarding
as significantly as 14 hours a day. Li Hong, 29, had been working there for almost any month, each
day, through eight a.m. for you to ten p.m.
Shen Jianhe ended up being your longest-serving worker at the factory. The Lady have been within
Italy with regard to ten years, and had been the only worker there with a residency permit as well as
work contract. "What will happen to my sewing machine? I need it in order to work," your woman
said, as police began sealing most tools found about the premises.
Shen stated your ex youngsters didn't stay together with her in the factory, although children's items
- such as the storybook with just about all the title "Where is actually my mummy?" - had been
strewn throughout the floorboards of the woman's windowless, damp cubicle, which in turn
measured regarding 2 square meters along with has been practically entirely filled by means of a
"Now I need to locate an additional job. I must feed my children," the girl said.
($1 = 0.7296 euros)
(additional reporting by simply Silvia Ognibene; editing through Alessandra Galloni and David