The world develops, people continue learning from historical facts and experience, but certain things remain the same. Or just about the same. Those who never heard of child labour – no, those who never heard of children working in toy factories, you can cast the first stone.
June 12 was World Day against Child Labour. And just so we are clear, according to UNICEF there is “an estimated 150 million children worldwide engaged in child labour”. But what does it mean exactly to fight against child labour?
I’ll be precise: it means fighting against fabricating* most of the toys you buy for your children. And maybe your clothes. Or your electronics. Probably something else as well that I am forgetting. It means stopping uninformed purchases. Because when you see, it’s children working for another children’s pleasure, for our own pleasure and useless “needs”. That’s the unfortunate reality, and it’s always time to fight against bad things – in this case really, really bad.
In 2011, The Guardian reported that “Disney’s best-selling Cars toys are being made in a factory in China that uses child labour and forces staff to do three times the amount of overtime allowed by law”. Let’s not talk about the overtime issue, and allow me to focus on the first half of the sentence.
Among the several claims from The Guardian, who were following reports from an investigative team, there are complaints of strict working routine, unsafe environment possibly poisoned with chemicals, and doubtful wage and compensation system. It seems like the type of illegality that we hear every day. Except it’s not. This time, they are talking about children’s working environment. And that’s not normal, nor should be part of what we hear in our routine.
Barbies, Cars, Thomas trains, and other line of toys are some of what Chinese children have been working on. And if you think a child can play with 20 toys at the same time, you’re wrong. Nor a child needs 20 different toys. Just like I don’t need 3 pairs of jeans or the latest version of the iPhone. But don’t fool yourself if you think all of these desired items that we say we desperately need so much came all from China, or that China is the only country that employs children. And please, don’t fool yourself if you think children “only” work in the goods industry.
A publication from 2013 of the International Labour Organization [ILO] describes how businesses were trying to fight against child labour in India, Brazil, and South Africa. The intuit of these businesses effort was to achieve the “elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016”, including where the majority of child labour is found, in the agriculture industry. However, remember what I said in the beginning about the 150 million children working worldwide? India and Brazil are included on that number. Although there are no specifics on South Africa on this report from UNICEF, a CNBC Africa article from February 2016 comments on the impact of the mining industry in child labour.
Sadly, I’m not mentioning here half (not one tenth) of what’s out there on child labour. Just type on google “child labour” and you are going to find the horrific 5,540,000 results come up.
Going back to the first question I asked “what does it mean to fight against child labour?”; it means to give these children a future, a childhood, education. There is a direct connection between education and economic development.
Canadian Feed the Children explains that without a minimum of 40% literacy rate, “no country has ever achieved rapid and continuous economic growth”. Moreover, primary school has a direct impact on the future’s earning potential of a family and also increases food security. Therefore, a child cannot, and will not be able to support its family while working. Money is unfortunately the immediate reward that the child earns, while education is source of mind, health, and financial development for the immediate times, and for the future as well.
World Vision’s No Child for Sale provides a series of recommendation for Canadian consumers who want to stop supporting child labour. Among their suggestions, there are: questioning companies on what it’s being done around child labour, opening dialogues for more transparency (including boycotting brands), and also getting informed about our own purchases.
The last one, I find that personally is the most important one. It’s one thing to be against child labour, and it’s another to go find more information about it, and stop buying certain products / or supporting certain brands when you find out your favorite one is “guilty”. Be it in the food or goods industry.
In the end, everything works like a cycle. Child labour exists because of our overconsumption of toys, clothes, electronics, and uninformed purchases (of even food!), and it can also stops existing because of us. The math is simple: you don’t buy what you don’t need, nor you eat that food that you know passed through a child’s hand. You boycott brands that use child labor. Tcharan: there’s no more child labour.
So, when can you start?
*According to this article from The Guardian, “58.6% of child labourers aged between five and 17 work in the agricultural sector; 6.9% work in domestic work; 7.2% work in the industrial sector including mining, manufacturing and construction, and 25.4% work in services including retail trade, restaurants and transport”.
You can find the featured image here.