Introduction:Benjamin Powell, a professor at Texas Tech University with a PhD in economics, defines sweatshops as “Factories that typically produce apparel; that have very low wages by modern U.S. standards, long working hours, and unsafe or unhealthy working conditions; that often don’t obey labor laws; and that would generally be considered unpleasant places to work by most citizens in wealthy countries”(Powell). These type of circumstances are found most commonly in underdeveloped countries. The Child Labor Index evaluated all countries in the world for use of child labor in 2012 and found “Nearly 40% of all countries have been classified as ‘extreme risk’ in the index” (Child Labor Index qtd in Verisk Maplecroft). This means that children in 40% of countries in the world are at risk at being taken advantage of in a working environment.
Efforts to diminish child labor in sweatshops have been made in the past, such as putting programs such as UNICEF, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, and The International Child Labor Program in place. These organizations have greatly helped reduce the number of children working in sweatshops. However, as of 2017, there is still a shocking amount of underage workers around the world. According to UNICEF, “168 million children aged 5 to 17 are engaged in child labour” (Child Labour). The issue at hand must be addressed immediately in a more drastic measure, seeing as it poses a threat to millions of children in multiple countries and the effects will only continue to worsen. Furthermore, UNICEF stated in 2017 “At current rates, more than 100 million children will still be trapped in child labour by 2020” (Child Labour). In order to save children working in inequitable circumstances, and give them opportunities to be treated humanely in the workplace, legislative action must be taken.
It is indicative a piece of legislation within the governments is drafted in order to regulate companies employing underage workers. Political Perspective: Myanmar The country of Myanmar has one of the highest number of child laborers in the world according to Maplecroft in 2017. They are reported to have 1.5 million children aged 5-17 working in the country. (Verisk Maplecroft). As stated by Professor Marie Lall, a South Asia expert, in her peer reviewed article focused on education “Not all children have access to state schools.
Dropout rates in the state system are generally high nationwide; in Karen-populated and other conflict-affected areas especially so, because of political insecurity and widespread poverty” (Lall). One of the main reasons the underage workforce is so large is because of the debilitating poverty in the country. This causes families to send their children to work instead of to higher level education (secondary school). Some action has been taken but to no avail. Myanmar became part of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which is a human rights treaty guaranteeing economic, social, political, cultural, and health rights of children. However, because of corruption in the Myanmar government, the treaty has little to no power and its benefits cannot be implemented. Jack W.
Roberts of Emory University, one of the world’s leading research universities, in the peer-reviewed journal Emory International Law Review further details the situation. “Myanmar’s military, in part, made compliance with the treaty impossible, since there is no method by which the civilian government can regulate and prosecute the military. As a result, two decades after ratification of the Convention, the nation is still plagued by the problem of child labor” (Roberts). Simply putting in a secondary school regulation would not be enough to combat the child labor epidemic in Myanmar. There is no strong enforcement, so children desperate for money could sneak out of school in order to go to work.
By passing a law mandating an attendance record and time requirement in schools, the children can have both their education and working hours tracked. This would require a minimum of school hours to be completed before being allowed to go to work. Political Perspective: India India continues to have high rates of child labor despite the efforts taken to lessen it. While the situation is not as dire as Myanmar’s, action still must be taken in order to inhibit the increase.
The reason for the continuing problem of child labor in sweatshops is stated by Subhash Barman, who is a researcher at the Indian Statistical Institute. “As concerns the demand side, employers always prefer to employ child labour because they are cheaper than the adult labour and non-wage benefits such as medical insurance, provident fund or pensions are not accountable to the child labour” (Barman). If legislation is put in place to protect working children, there will be no difference in cost of labor. This will cause most employers to choose adults over children because they will be able to perform better. If more children are enrolled in school, the opportunity of being drafted for the sweatshop will in turn decrease. India has a similar problem to Myanmar when it comes to the correlation of poverty and child laborers.
The poorer areas in India have a higher rate of underage workers. However, the problem remains that there is no real incentivization for impoverished families to send children to school when they could be contributing to the family income. “India’s social structure and lack of administrative emphasis on education, despite recent economic development, perpetuate the child labor cycle by providing few incentives to send children to school, and many incentives to send them to work” (Roberts). A stress on education must be enforced by the government in India and places like it. The country would have more young men and women able to work in tertiary and quaternary jobs. These jobs make more money than simple factory positions, so they would be able to spend more money, therefore India’s economy would benefit.
By putting a school hour tracking system in place, it will allow the children to more efficiently complete their schoolwork, giving them the ability to move on to a full time career faster than ever before. Limitations: With any piece of legislation proposed in a developing country, there is a possibility of the fragile government rejecting it. However, in the circumstance of children working in factories, some additional support can come from organizations such as UNICEF. Money can be reallocated from within UNICEF and come from donations in order to make a more complex tracking program a reality. Critics may argue that there is also an issue of education centers not having the technology capable of logging such hours.
This can be easily remedied by the donations of large charities, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is known for donating large amounts of money to developing countries (Hong). This foundation and others could donate computers and allow for a communication between school and work in order to provide children not only an education, but allow them to still earn money for their families. Recommendation:While working long hours at such young ages is not ideal, it is currently the only option available for impoverished children, their families, and sweatshop businesses. The labor received from the children allows them to bring in large revenue from international companies, and losing that many workers would be too hard of a financial blow. It would also mean the government wouldn’t make enough money to continue developing their country. However, the current working situations are extremely harsh. To improve the lives of children workers in developing countries, it is recommended to implement a series of legislations to put an emphasis on education. Furthermore, an additional law decreeing auxiliary taxes on businesses if they refuse to reduce the number of child workers, or at the very least reducing their hours significantly.
This law would not only benefit the children affected, but incentivize businesses to follow the law. This in turn would limit the number of hours the children work while simultaneously preparing them for a life beyond factory work. The normalization of education in society in put in place because of the laws would also cause a social change. Ryan Hong, a researcher at Syracuse University stated “Schools would provide human rights classes two hours a week. These classes will teach children their labor rights as workers and promote gender equality. These classes will improve children’s perception of life, which will eventually help them be motivated to escape the vicious cycle that reproduces child labor from generation to generation”(Hong). The children would be more aware of their position, and more able to call attention to this very serious situation. Child labor is an extremely serious issue, being that it takes away from the crucial developmental stages of a child’s life.
Unfortunately, passing laws will not immediately rid the world of child labor, but it will bring attention to the matter at hand and allow there to be major advancements in the coming years.