Stop Child Labour
Stop Child Labour
Child labour is the employment of children under an age determined by law or custom. This practice is considered exploitative by many countries and international organizations. child labour was not seen as a problem throughout most of history, only becoming a disputed issue with the beginning of universal schooling and the concepts of workers' and children's rights.
Child labour can be factory work, mining or quarrying, agriculture, helping in the parents' business, having one's own small business (for example selling food), or doing odd jobs. Some children work as guides for tourists, sometimes combined with bringing in business for shops and restaurants (where they may also work as waiters). Other children are forced to do tedious and repetitive jobs such as assembling boxes or polishing shoes. However, rather than in factories and sweatshops, most child labor occurs in the informal sector, "selling on the street, at work in agriculture or hidden away in houses - far from the reach of official labor inspectors and from media scrutiny."
The most controversial forms of work include the military use of children as well as child prostitution. Less controversial, and often legal with some restrictions, are work as child actors and child singers, as well as agricultural work outside of the school year (seasonal work).
Protect our children... Stop child labour
Child labour continues to exist throughout the world. Children work because their survival and that of their families depend on it, and in some cases, because unscrupulous adults take advantage of their vulnerability. child labour is also due to weaknesses in education systems and is deeply rooted in cultural and social attitudes and traditions. The problem is further compounded by the fact that child labour remains hidden from public view, making the problem seem less of a priority.
What can be done about child labour?
There are many approaches, and no single magic solution. Here are some suggestions.
1. Prioritise primary education It is no coincidence that the countries where child labour is worst are those that spend least on primary education. Primary education should be free, compulsory, well-resourced, relevant and nearby. It is much easier to monitor school attendance that to inspect factories and workshops. Sponsoring a child doesn't solve this problem - it might make us feel good, but it only helps educate one child, isolating them from others in their community.
2. Regulate global trade The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is the international body charged with overseeing and enforcing the rules of world trade as drawn up during the four decades of GATT negotiations.
Given the impact that globalisation combined with economic rationalist policies have had on workers' wages, conditions, safety standards and basic rights, the global union movement is calling for additional regulation of international trading laws.
Trade unions globally are pushing for a set of rules stipulating the minimum labour standards to be included in the rules of world trade enforced by the WTO. Including core labour standards would enforce several key ILO Conventions such as the right for workers to join a trade union and bargain collectively, and the banning of child labour, as well as banning slave labour, prison labour and discrimination in the workplace.
3. Get rid of poverty Many things are needed to overcome global poverty, but two urgent steps are:
a) Get rid of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs): When a country has a balance of payments difficulty, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) implements a SAP for that country. This IMF program usually demands cuts to government social spending such as health and education, spending cuts which impact hardest on the poorest.
b) Restructure Third World Debt. The repayments of the poorest and most indebted countries should be redirected into spending on local health and education rather than to Western bankers. An international campaign aims to cancel the debts of the poorest countries - see the Jubilee Australia website for details and to get involved.
4. Strengthen unions Trade unions also play a crucial role in preventing and eliminating child labour. Adult workers who have the right to organise, negotiate and bargain for a living wage do not have to send their children to work. Where strong unions exist, child labour is diminished. Unions not only strongly oppose child labour on the grounds of social justice, they also resist the hiring of children at wages that undermine their own.
5. Consumer education As consumers, we are the driving force behind the global economy - let's drive it the right direction. We can raise awareness, we can question stores about the labour conditions under which their goods were made, and we can demand proper labelling. If they can tell us what's in a product, they can also tell us who made it. Where labelling exists (eg, Rugmark for hand woven carpets) support these products. Pester multinational companies to adopt codes of conduct for themselves and their subcontractors.
6. Ban the worst forms of child labour Demand the government support the ILO Convention 182 banning the worst forms of child labour such as bonded labour, work in heavy industry or with dangerous substances and commercial sexual exploitation.
7. Give the jobs of child workers to their adult relatives This way, the family does not suffer, and indeed should be better off, as adult wages are generally much higher than child wages.
8. Campaign on specific industries It's hard to take on the whole global economy, so just work industry by industry. Recent ACTU and international union campaigns have involved sporting goods made by child labour, medical instruments made by children (often exported to Australia) and the gem polishing industry in India where children polish diamonds, often sourced from Australia's Argyle diamond mine. Another recent campaign has involved the role of children in citrus juice production in Brazil.
9. Join the Fair Wear campaign Where exploitative child labour does exist in Australia, it is predominantly in the outsourced clothing industry. The Fair Wear Campaign is a coalition of unions, churches and community organisations. It works in association with the Textile, Clothing & Footwear Union and uses consumer pressure to fight for the rights of all homebased outworkers. Contact the Fair Wear Campaign for further details.
10. Education and training for women All studies show that when women are educated, trained and empowered, the incidence of labour by their children, especially girl children, drops dramatically. Your union's overseas aid agency, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA - has many projects assisting skills training for women. Support them.
11. Our overseas aid The Australian government's overseas aid budget is approximately $1.8 billion per year. This should give it leverage to encourage other governments to enact and enforce adequate legislation banning child labour. We need to demand that a greater share of this budget goes to non-government aid agencies for primary education and teacher training, rather than to big, for-profit companies and to subsidising middle class students to study in our universities.
12. Get more data While the ILO has collected a lot of data on child labour in recent years, there are still many gaps. We need more data especially in those "hidden" areas such as domestic servants, on farms or with home-based out-workers.
WHAT ARE SOME SOLUTIONS TO STOPCHILD LABOR?
Not necessarily in this order:
1. Increased family incomes
2. Education - that helps children learn skills that will help them earn a living
3. Social services - that help children and families survive crises, such as disease, or loss of home and shelter
4. Family control of fertility - so that families are not burdened by children
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for children to participate in important decisions that will affect their lives.
Some educators and social scientists believe that one of the most important ways to help child workers is to ask their opinions, and involve them in constructing "solutions" to their own problems. Strong advocates of this approach are Boyden, Myers and Ling; Concerned for Working Children in Karnataka, India; many children's "unions" and "movements," and the Save the Children family of non-governmental organizations.
Child Slavery and Child Labour
Ask most people about slavery and they'll tell you it's a thing of the past with only rare, unfortunate occurrences today. But what most people don't know is, there are more people living as slaves than any other time in history, including the four decades of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. That is, an estimated 27 million people live in bondage. Of that figure, it can only be estimated how many are children: five to six million.
Exacerbated by extreme poverty, children are often sold into slavery by their parents or guardians. Along with paying desperate families for a child, parents are promised the child will receive food, shelter, clothing and a proper education. In many cases, however, parents are unwittingly pushing their children into a dismal life of slavery. They may never see their child again.
Children work in agriculture, domestic work, industry and the sex trade. The cocoa industry in West Africa, for instance, is one of the most notorious employers of child slaves. Young boys, ranging in age from 12 to 16, are coaxed from their villages with promises of money and a better life. Once on the farm, the children are kept against their will and work in inhumane conditions to harvest cocoa beans to sell to the world market. Child slaves are also used to manufacture cotton, rugs, and silk, among other things.
Many child slaves denied an education, freedom of movement, and freedom of information. They are confined, beaten, and terrorized and are forced to work in dangerous conditions that often result in life-long injuries. Because poverty is so widespread, children are seen as disposable and are often fed just enough to be kept alive. It seems there is always a desperate family that could be enticed to sell a child. On average, slaves are sold for US$90.
While millions of children are slaves, 246 million more are child laborers. The difference between the two is faint. Child labor is an activity performed by a child for which he/she receives compensation, no matter how little. Child labor can range from children combing landfills for things that can be recycled to children who harvest sugar cane in a field. At least 120 million children work full-time, 61 percent in Asia, 32 percent in Africa and 7 percent in Latin America.
Some children are born into bondage and are forced to follow a parent's trade. Bonded labor also occurs when a child is forced to work to pay off a debt. Many times children incur "expenses" at their workplace, for food and shelter for instance, and are unable to pay off the debt.
Both child slavery and child labor cause physical and psychological damage for children. Many children attempt to escape and return home again, only to be forced into similar situations. Others live on the streets to avoid punishment and re-enslavement. In rare circumstances, children are rescued by aid and non-profit organizations who attempt to secure them a better future. Chocolate Covered Child Labour
Most of our children play with teddy bears, children in West Africa play with Machetes. Why? So you can enjoy your cup of coffee.
Coffee culture is rapidly growing and the demand for chocolate never seems to stop. For every bar we buy more children are forced into child slavery on cocoa farms. Over 67% of the world's cocoa comes from West Africa. As the trading wheel of injustice spins, children are tortured, farmers go hungry, and large companies such as Nestle and Cadburys make a profit. When we consume more chocolate the demand for cocoa increases, and so farmers can make money to feed their family from the fruits of their labor.
Unfortunately that is not the case as it's the corrupted trading system which dictates the price.
Instead global companies charge high prices for their products but refuse to pay a fair price for cocoa beans, the primary ingredient needed for the coffee and chocolate they sell. As a result farmers sell their beans to middlemen who then negotiate trading prices to sell on to companies. Farmers only receive half the amount of money the beans are originally bought for as the middleman receives the rest. In most cases they do not make a profit. Desperate farmers transform into corrupted farmers and become involved in the business of child trafficking. Young children wandering the streets of Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire are lured by traffickers who promise them a life where they can earn an honest wage so they don't go hungry.
Opportunity knocks at the wrong door as children are then abducted and sold to farmers as slaves.
They are forced into painful work, long days in inhumane conditions without pay and with little food. Work includes using machetes to cut the cacao pods from high branches, and applying pesticides without protective equipment. Dangerous days and fearful nights is the typical day in the life of child slaves. Young children are psychologically deceived into staying on the farm. If they are brave enough, attempting to escape back home to their parents, they are beaten, whipped, and tortured.
According to Global Exchange.org 240,000 children have been sold as slaves in West Africa to work on coffee, cocoa, and cotton plantations, and according to a US State Department Report 15,000 of those children are aged between 9-12. While our children attend school the children we have forgotten dream of such opportunities. These children don't receive their basic right to an education instead they have a tortured life of abuse and daily beatings so you can have your Mars bar.
It's a tricky cycle to break as cocoa beans produced by slaves are hard to detect. Once the farmer gives his goods to the middleman to sell, the beans are taken to a warehouse and mixed with beans produced by paid workers. At this stage companies play the blame game by stating they have no way of detecting which beans are from slave free farms. If we refuse to use all cocoa then farmers would be under more pressure which would result in more cases of child slavery.
Global companies need to make their products fair trade. If they pay the farmers a minimum wage, farmers are obliged to form an agreement which states their working standards are democratic with no slavery involved, and their cocoa is of good quality. Direct business will mean the middleman is no longer needed and farmers can reap what they sow. It all sounds very fair and simple, so why don't all products have the fair trade label on? Because companies like Nestle are quite happy making $65 billion a year.
While we blissfully sip our hot chocolate, we are tasting the blood of another child.
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This Hub was last updated on June 9, 2011
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