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‘Voting’ with Our Choices: Child Labor and the Way Forward
By admin October 30, 2018

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Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor’s published the 17th edition of Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, estimating that at least 152 million children are engaged in child labor and 25 million people are in forced labor worldwide, which is clear and striking. It notes that some of modern society’s most coveted goods are produced by child and forced labor. More than 2 million children in Western Africa work in sometimes hazardous conditions on cocoa plantations, the main ingredient in chocolate. Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo labor in harsh and dangerous conditions to mine cobalt ore, a mineral essential to the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in electronic devices. Child labor is imposing irreversible harms on the mental, social, physical and psychological development of children since they are not only paid below the minimum level but also suffering from forced begging and sexual exploitation.

When it comes to the underlying reasons for this issue, it is important to understand the dilemma facing poor families. There is a trade-off between income earned by the children and the cost of education in terms of time and money. Due to the lack of information about the wider social benefits of education and health or the inaccessibility to them, parents prefer short-term benefits by advocating for employment instead of education. UNICEF estimates that 380,000 of 870,000 school-aged Syrians living in Turkey are receiving no formal education. Child labor is one of the driving factors. Things can be trickier in countries where wars or turbulent military coups are ongoing: mass displacement makes it impossible to receive continuing education and creates a large vacuum void of human rights.

With the pursuit of profit maximization, there are currently few incentives for employers to take on the extra cost and bureaucracy involved in formally hiring labors. In some cases, children are the only ones who can find work as unscrupulous employers seek to take advantage of cheap labor. Their contribution then becomes important to their family’s welfare. In the era of globalization, multinationals are utilizing cheap and flexible child laborers in the developing world. Lack of multilateral coordination and a unified international law shields them from serious punishments. In 2016, the world’s largest food maker Nestle admitted the possibility of slave labor in its coffee supply chain. Two years later, the company was again grilled in a lawsuit by a group of former child slaves in the federal court of San Francisco in last week. Whereas, there are shreds of evidence show that, in general, children are less likely to work in countries with more international trade, because it makes traditions and attitudes in the less-developed countries be exposed to an international consensus on child protection and imposes pressure on local government.

Some efforts have shed lights on influencing and changing consumers’ choices. For instance, Green America has created Chocolate Scorecard, which identifies ethically sourced, certified sweets as well as gives additional information on what individual companies are doing beyond what their certifications require. Projects like Global Hues Market (GHM) aims to inform consumers how they, inadvertently, preserve slave labor. Besides, based on fair trade policies, where products bought and sold are connected to the livelihood of others, GHM offers one-of-a-kind products that directly impact the lives of those who make them.

More has been done in implementation, reforms, and enforcement of laws and regulations. Realizing that the root of the child labor crisis is actually poverty, Brazil government launch conditional cash transfer programs to dismiss the concern of disadvantaged households. Academic institutions and NGOs are partnering in conducting thorough researches on the status quo, evaluation framework, and viable solutions, raising the awareness of the general public as well as the government in the severity of the problem. In 2002, the International Labor Organization launched the World Day Against Child Labor. When the SDGs was adopted in 2015, a global commitment to ending child labor was also incorporated into the broad mechanism. This is a hard-won battle, but with more stakeholders taking concrete actions, we can expect a fair playing field for our vulnerable younger generations.

 

Read More:

DOL Report Details Child and Forced Labor Worldwide

The Importance of Human Capital

A day on the factory floor with a young Syrian refugee

Fair trade businesswoman helps consumers fight slavery, child labor

Nestle sued for perpetuating child slavery overseas from headquarters in US

Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Towards Eradication of Child Labor

Let’s keep child labor out of Halloween candy

Trade and Child Labor

International Trade and Child Labor


Thanks for sharing !


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