Posts Tagged ‘Child Labor’

Global poverty: Links & comments 10/22/13

October 22, 2013

I got hired at a Bangladesh sweatshop | Meet my 9-year-old boss by Reveena Aulakh for the Toronto Star.  Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.

A reporter for the Toronto Star, who worked for a few days in a Bangladesh garment factory, wrote a profile of a 9-year-old co-worker, who earns $32 a month if she works every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with an hour break for lunch and Friday afternoons off.   I don’t think any North American who reads this article could feel complacent about where their clothing comes from.

Ending Extreme Poverty Is a Matter of Political Will by Sam Pizzigati of the Washington Spectator.

About 1.2 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, which is considered “extreme poverty”.  Most of them lack access to clean water or electricity.  A study by the Credit Suisse, the giant Swiss bank, indicates that, in principle, they could be raised out of poverty by means of a graduated wealth tax averaging one-half of 1 percent on individual wealth above $1 million.

Slavery is not a thing of the past

June 20, 2013

We think of slavery as a thing of the past, but it isn’t.  The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 21 million people around the world in different kinds of forced labor.  And it isn’t just backward countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

The U.S. State Department issued its annual report on forced labor and human trafficking on Wednesday.  The Guardian reported

China is criticized for perpetuating human trafficking in 320 state-run institutions and the widespread domestic trafficking of girls and women into forced prostitution. In Russia, an estimated 1 million people are exposed to exploitative labor, including forced labor used in the construction of the Winter Olympic park in Sochi, according to the report.

The government of Uzbekistan continues to force older children and adults into slave labor in its cotton industry, the US state department says, and the country “remains one of only a handful of governments around the world that subjects its citizens to forced labor through the implementation of state policy”.

via The Guardian.

Uzbekistan is noteworthy because coerced labor for production of cotton is government policy.  Uzbekistan has been dependent on its cotton industry since the days of the old Soviet Union.  Here is a report from a human rights organization.

Child cotton pickers in Uzbekistan

Photo by Thomas Grabka

In 2012, the Uzbek government mobilized the forced labor of over a million children and adults. Regional authorities enforced state cotton quotas on farmers, under threat of taking their land.  While there was not the nationwide shut-down of primary schools, authorities mobilized children ages 15 to 17 nationwide and younger children sporadically.

Children forced to pick cotton worked excessive hours, conducted arduous physical work in hazardous conditions and under threat of punishment, including expulsion from school.  Government employees – including teachers, doctors, nurses, and soldiers – and private business employees were forced to pick cotton under threat of dismissal from work, the loss of salary, pensions and welfare benefits.  Authorities extracted fines from those who failed to meet their cotton quotas.

This spring, the Uzbek government is again mobilizing children as young as age 10 and adults to plow and weed cotton fields.  On April 19, the deputy governor of Namangan region beat seven farmers for planting onions instead of cotton.  As is the case each year during the fall cotton harvest, the forced labor of government employees is once again disrupting the delivery of essential public services, including health care and education.

via Cotton Campaign.

Secretary of State John Kerry should be commended for allowing the report to go out, even though it embarrasses powerful countries such as Russia and China and U.S. allies such as Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia.

Congressional law allows for targeted economic sanctions against countries that practice or tolerate slavery, forced labor and human trafficking.   I don’t think this is likely anytime soon, but to name them and shame them is more than nothing.