Friday, March 11, 2011

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun

Child labor continues to be an issue. The fashion industry had been quiet for sometime on subjects concerning forced child labor laws however; recent speculations of forced labor have been submerging. Overseas, these laws are no longer being enforced and more children are being forced to work at a very young age. UNICEF has estimated that from ages 5-14, there are approximately 158 million children working underage for horrific pay. Various countries in the eastern hemisphere such as India and China have been talking about efforts being made in order to eliminate or lessen child workers. Although there has been talk of these efforts, solutions and answers to the child labor problem still have not been seen.

Children around the world are being forced to work in sweatshops that can often be harmful to their health. Investigators who have visited these apparel sweatshops have seen children working with dangerous chemicals in dangerous settings; they have also seen these children get abused and forced to work in very unsanitary and disgusting conditions. These kids will often be forced to work 12 to 14 hour days without receiving overtime pay. They will also be deprived of an education and a proper childhood. The biggest problem areas in the apparel industry include clothing, handbags and shoes. Most athletic shoes are made in Asian sweatshops.

It’s no secret that there is a serious problem concerning child labor laws in Asian countries. India had once been a go to country for American manufacturers but that is no longer the case. The amount of apparel traffic coming out of India and that is being shipped to North-America is decreasing greatly and the U.S labor department is encouraging the cease of textile merchandising with Indian manufacturers. Registered textile mills in India are now subject to regular inspections by the government.

With the rise of cotton prices, efforts are being made in order to save money in Asian countries. There have been reports of children harvesting genetically modified cotton because of its smaller size. In Uzbekistan approximately 2 million school children are sent by the government to pick cotton in fields. These children will usually be gone for 2-3 months in the fall. Often, some of these children will be injured in the fields.

For sometime, the government in these countries have been stating that change is coming and efforts are being made to help these children. These governments have not made sufficient efforts because child slavery continues to be a big issue in developing Asian countries. Canada and the U.S have been closely working towards settling this issue with the United Nation.

According to an article in Women’s Wear Daily by Liza Casabona (October 10th 2010) the U.S Labor department has given out millions of dollars worth of grants to organizations working closely to fight child labor. They believe that every child has the right to an education and are working towards this goal.

Canadians have also made an impact globally. Free the children is a non-profit organization that is concentrated on raising money for the children around the world while raising awareness of the current situation. It was founded in 1995 by a 12 year old boy named Craig Kielburger. Since then they have started the adopt a village program which provide schools, health care and clean water to child laborers everywhere. The 500th school was built in 2008.

It is rewarding to see how much North-Americans have been helping overseas however unless the governments in said countries starts to enforce child labor laws the issue will not cease. Canadians are beginning to be more aware of the issue and some are no longer buying brands that have been known to support child laborStores such as forever 21 and stitches may be able to sell their merchandise cheaper but they will lose a certain demographic of shoppers who are aware of the company’s ways. Companies such as Gap and H&M have strong views against child labor and are able to reach out to a higher demographic. Brands can no longer afford to make unethical decisions and this is taking a toll on the third-world child labor industry. The media is posing more awareness on social activism and these brands have all been seeing positive feedback and sale increase within the company. The world is becoming more conscious of the way that our clothes is being produced, procured and then sent out for the consumers to buy. Companies that support child labor in foreign countries are becoming more and more susceptible to company sales lost due to the unethical behaviour and decisions making in the company and they will continue to see their number decrease as long as they are doing so. Child labor is not going to be solved overnight, however if poverty and slavery continues to be ignored there might not be any children to enslave in the future.

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