The New York Times published an El Salvador Journal piece headlined "At Salvadoran Factory, Helping Troubled Youth Makes Business Sense." It is the story of a T-shirt factort in Ciudad Arce, El Salvador, where workers, including several dozen ex-gang members, sew t-shirts and make a living wage with benefits such as day care and education:
Mr. Amaya said he spent seven years in the gang before he joined an evangelical church and was allowed to leave. He began working at the League plant two years ago. There, his boss, Mr. Bolaños, brims with ideas: “Our goal is to get people back in society, get them back on track,” he said.WBUR also published a story on the League Collegiate Wear factory which you can read here.
Every worker spends half an hour on a computer each workday practicing English through an online course. The factory pays for high school equivalency classes and has just arranged with a local university to offer a two-year engineering degree. The company subsidizes a clinic, day care, breakfast and lunch, adjusts schedules for employees studying for a college degree, and has even set up a plan to lend money to people who want to raise tilapia in tanks at home for extra income.
The efforts raise labor costs — to some $500 a month for each worker overall, compared to the average wage of about $300 a month in garment plants. But the benefits eliminate turnover, Mr. Bolaños said, which ultimately generate savings.
“Other companies are barely making it because they are training people every month,” he said. His efficiencies mean he could sell to a customer demanding the tightest margins. “If I worked for Wal-Mart, could I do this? The answer is yes.” (more).
This factory is only one isolated instance, yet it shows what might be possible.