Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Exploiting the Children

The headlines are telling us that a sweatshop using child labour in India has been raided and shut down. It turns out hat this sweatshop was a subcontractor for The Gap. The store has pulled from its shelves all merchandise emanating from this factory. But is that enough?

It's a dicey thing: child labour in particular and sweatshop conditions in general in the third world. All sorts of companies obtain goods from Asian suppliers. While most of these companies are not directly responsible for what goes on with their subcontractors, they could, no doubt, do a much better job at monitoring and preventing such occurrences. The Gap could even make sure that these particular children be recompensed before being sent home. According to the news releases, they haven't been as yet.

Let's fact it, children in less developed countries do work, and that's not going to change overnight. It's the kind of work that they do, the conditions that they work in, and the very meager compensation, if any, that present the problem. That and the fact they won't be in school while they are working long, tiring hours. Children also need time to play. It's a right or should be.

Atrocous working conditions seem to be part of the development phase. European workers also had it pretty tough during the industrial revolution. My own grandfather was forced to leave home at a very early age to make his way in the world. But we know better now and must make an effort to make the world a better place. Even if life must be harder and more demanding for children in developing countries, they still need some time to be kids. While families may require some work from them, they also need time to play and learn, and western companies such as The Gap need to take some responsibility for making that happen.


thailandchani said...

I buy a lot of things from overseas. Mainly my clothes. One of the things I do is make sure it is a fair trade company I am buying from.

In my opinion, any US company that is engaging in these unfair practices should be shut down and kicked out.

There's no justification for exploitation of labor... child or otherwise.

Gina said...

Hear hear!

ChrisB said...

I fully agree with what you are saying.
It's not that long ago that children in this country worked from their teens. My mother had to leave school at 14 and go into service and this was only in the 30's.

Ruth said...

Our society's insatiable appetite for cheap, throw-away goods pushes companies to reduce production costs. Every time Walmart lowers its prices, someone pays. But it may be the worker in the third world country who pays the biggest price. Shame on the Gap. Their prices are not all that inexpensive so someone is padding their pockets. I try to shop very carefully now and pay attention to where my product was made.

Ginnie said...

Thanks for posting this reminder to us to be careful of what we buy. Can you just imagine how all the billions of dollars thrown away in this horrible Iraq war could have gone to alleviate some of this injustice. I will never forgive Bush for taking us down this path.

Pam said...

Right on, AC, and very well said. I am very careful when I purchase anything and I'm very much against our tendency to be a throwaway society.

It's always the children who pay the highest price for our mistakes. If people would picture their own children in these sweatshops before they lay their money down, they might change their minds about how they shop.

Linda said...

Amen, AC. I'd like to make my wishes known by my purchases but it is awfully hard not to buy anything from Asia.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I don't understand why developing countries have to go through all the stages of the industrial revolution. Can they not learn from the West's experience and skip some of the tragic experiences in areas such as labour, social safety net and the environment. I suspect the exploitive nature of Western economics has something to do with it.

Coll said...

It is sometimes easy to forget that many on this earth do not share the pampered lives that we often take so much for granted.

Ultimately, I do feel that the large western companies do have a responsibility to know where and how their products are being produced. As consumers, I feel we share in this responsibility.