THE BEST EMPLOYEE

  • Works long hours for low wages
  • Not a member of pesky trade unions
  • Works under extreme and dangerous situations
  • Does not ask for breaks
  • Does not complain
  • Will not argue with you

Can you guess who this is??

The appeal of using child labour is obvious – children are compliant and can be easily intimidated; they do not have trade unions to bargain for better pay and working conditions; and they are innocent and uneducated which makes them easy to exploit.

There are many stages of production in the fashion, construction and agricultural industries and shrewd employers get away with using child labour because large companies and customers cannot keep track of every stage of the process. In 2001, one of the biggest brands in the world took a major blow when they admitted to using child labour in Pakistan and Cambodia. This sent other brands spiraling on a course to ensure that they were not going to suffer the same fate. And while Nike has recovered from that (due to extensive CSI and governance measures) and rised to popularity again, the reality is devastating – even with businesses actively implementing extravagant CSI initiatives and encouraging ethical practice, the use of child labour has found its place in the market.

Next week, 4 April 2015, is Child Labour Day in South Africa, and I thought it would be appropriate to think, and encourage discussion about this problem. I have chosen some photos from the inter-web that depict the seriousness and gravity of child labour. Essentially, it is abuse. It deprives them of their childhood and exposes them to dangerous environments. SO WHY DOES IT OCCUR? Because they are the perfect employees.

There is a definite correlation between poverty, lack of education and child labour. Countries like India and Bangladesh have some of the highest rates of poverty and child labour, recruiters convince impoverished parents to allow their young children to work at their factories. There are promises of meals, accommodation, education and a good pay. Sounds great, right? It would be except the children who are as young as 5 years old, are forced to work in appalling conditions – earning nothing more than a few cents. Their parents are too poor, too ignorant and too desperate to protect them.

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