Tuesday, 17 January 2012

I Will Toil For You???

CHILD LABOR.Time and again the call to address the issue on child labor has been raised by many individuals and various cause-oriented groups. Child labor persists in both developed and developing countries.It can be synonymous to child trafficking,the two being thinly differentiated by the degree or intensity of the “services rendered.” More often than not, child labor results to child trafficking, slavery and prostitution.
(Child labourers, Macon, Georgia, 1909 via Wikipedia)

One doesn’t need to minutely dissect the causes of child labor to determine that one of its major cause is POVERTY. Child labor is cheap. These children can be easily exploited and be the least paid workers. Some may not even be paid at all. In many cases, they work as laborers to help augment the family income since the parents themselves are unemployed or uneducated and cannot financially support the family. Others are sold or traded like animals so the family can pay off their debts.       

In an investigative report on child labor on a sardine factory some years back, the rescued children recounted how they were made to work until past midnight, made to sleep on cold concrete floors without mats, and woken up at 3am to start work for the day.Some said they were unpaid.This is a scenario common in places where children are forced into labor. They are made to live and work under inhumane conditions.
Child labor currently accounts for 22% of the workforce in Asia, 32% in Africa, 17% in Latin America, 1% in US, Canada, Europe and other wealthy nations.The recent series of news that came out about big companies like Apple and Victoria’s Secret whose suppliers employ child laborers sparked renewed attention to seriously address the problem on Child Labor.This is nothing new.

In 2009, H&M and Zara were accused of using suppliers of cotton in Bangladesh or raw materials from Uzbekistan,who both employed child laborers.
(Young girl working on a loom in
 AïtBenhaddou, Morocco in May 2008 via Wikipedia)
In 2007, GAP Inc, pulled out their kids’ blouses from the shops after admitting that these were made by child laborers in India.  

In November 2005, the International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Firestone Tire and Rubber Company  on behalf of current child laborers and their parents who had also been child laborers at the metal plantation in Liberia On June 26, 2007,

In 1997, research indicated that the number of child laborers in the silk-weaving industry in the district of Kanchipuram in India exceeded 40,000. The continued child bondage over the years resulted in a major raid in Delhi in 2005 on over 100 illegal embroidery factories with child laborers.It was the biggest rescue of 480 child laborers.
Even as far back as the 1900s, children as young as 4 years old were employed in many countries as workers in factories. Though this has evolved  into not just working in factories but also selling on the streets or  markets, mining, quarrying or carrying heavy logs from illegal loggers, the state of child laborers remains the same...child laborers work  in dangerous conditions are and made to live in conditions not fit for humans.

Taking Action
Can something really be done? There are so many greedy people in the world who lust for money and power and will try to grab them by any means. With no food on the plates of millions of impoverished families, and uneducated parents unable to find jobs, many are driven to have their children toil in factories, mines or farms in unhealthy and even dangerous working environments.

Many raised their concern about boycotting products produced by child laborers as an option to stop child labor. Some were concerned that this may further force the children to turn to more dangerous work like prostitution, quarrying or mining. The UNICEFcited a case where after the Child Labor Deterrence Act was introduced in the US, an estimated 50,000 children were dismissed from their garment industry jobs in Bangladesh. Many resorted to more dangerous jobs such as "stone-crushing, street hustling, and prostitution."
Most countries have Child Labor laws that protect and define working conditions for children. Though they have been in existence for some time, implementing the law is difficult for authorities where poverty, lack of education and corruption exist. 

I’ve always believed in the Lao Tzu saying, "Give a Man a Fish, Feed Him For a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, Feed Him For a Lifetime."This best explains my reaction in the past at news that children were being fed to keep them from being hungry…period. I saw this as making the parents dependent on NGOs and agencies to feed their children which they as parents were responsible for. I silently reacted in the same way when my sister, a missionary, told me how the group her organization supports, would go around poor houses in their area every day and provide food to eat for the poor families. To me, it did not help the families become independent and earn a living on their own…they simply became dependent that someone would bring food on their table everyday.
It is of course different in places where there is famine or drought and there is no other recourse but to give aid by providing families food until their country recovers from the condition.   It is also different when the kids are fed in Learning Centers while being taught to keep them from being hungry and help them focus on their lessons. It is in fact, one way of keeping these children in school and educating them. This not only prevents the kids from being thrown into child labor conditions, it also gives their families hope that the children can one day reach higher education and grow up to be responsible citizens who can contribute to the economy. 

Action by governments to protect laborers and ensure correct wages and working hours are implemented can significantly contribute to the decline in child labor. It gives the family the opportunity to have more income for food and some savings that can provide for the education of their children.  As Thomas De Gregori, an economics professor at the University of Houston put it, "it is clear that technological and economic changes are vital ingredients in getting children out of the workplace and into schools. Then they can grow to become productive adults and live longer, healthier lives.”

As of October 2011, the International Labor Organization estimated that more than 215 million children aged 5 to 14 (compared to 1995 figures of 250 million) are in child labor worldwide, excluding child domestic labor.Bangladesh, Philippines and India, all developing countries where poverty is high,are said to have the worst forms of child labor.
If everyone, every government does his/its share to protect children from being forced into labor, provide education for them and their uneducated parents so they can learn to sustain themselves in their everyday lives, then we all will be a step closer to eliminating child labor…    

Sources and references:

Weight of Silence: Child Labor and Trafficking: Child Labor and Trafficking

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