In the United States, child labor and sweatshops are illegal, and society frowns upon any business that exploits children in the production of goods. Though most would say that they would not support a company that uses child labor to produce its goods, almost everyone has, in fact, knowingly or unknowingly, supported these businesses in one way or another. Children are involved in the production of many of the everyday goods we import from overseas, including the manufacturing of clothes, shoes, toys, and sporting equipment, the farming of cocoa, cotton, sugarcane, and bananas, and the mining of coal, diamonds, and gold (The U.S. Dept. of Labor). Often, we are blinded to this fact. Child Labor is defined by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as “a form of work that is inherently hazardous, employs children below the internationally recognized minimum age, or is exploitive” (U.S. Lib. of Congress). The ILO estimates that approximately 250,000,000 children between the ages of five and fifteen work, and 120,000,000 work full time (Bachman 30). Children comprise 22% of the total workforce in Asia, 32% in Africa, 17% in Latin America, and 1% in the United States, Canada, and other wealthy nations (“Child Labor”). Merriam-Webster Dictionary broadly describes a sweatshop as “a shop or factory where workers work long hours, at low wages and under unhealthy conditions”. Such sweatshops, primarily manufacturing clothing and shoes, employ less than 5% of child labor worldwide, but this segment of child labor receives “a disproportionate amount of press and world attention (Bachman 38). Children are treated as mere cogs in the wheel of the global economy. They perform the greatest amount of work in the production process for the least benefit. They suffer physical, mental, and emotional anguish and forego their futures for minimal and sometimes no pay (Darity 23). Poverty drives child labor. Impoverished families in underdeveloped and developing countries turn to child labor, in desperation, because the little money it brings is vital to the survival of the family (24, Maki). Employers take advantage of these families to get cheap labor, which is never is short supply. The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) has made large strides in its attempts to end the cruelty of child labor. The USDOL, joined by other international organizations and agencies and global economists, have emphasized the critical importance of presenting poor families and children with economic opportunities and incentives that can free them from having to rely on child labor for survival. Education, health and social programs, improved employment opportunities for parents, improved working conditions, and improved technology are the means to end dangerous child labor practices (The U.S. Dept. of Labor). Moral outrage is not enough. Clearly moral outrage exists, but for many employers, the money continues to flow, and there is no disincentive to end such exploitive practices. Oftentimes, children in these countries need to work. The survival of their families depends on it. The working conditions these children are forced to endure, however, must be improved and steps need to be taken to eliminate family dependency on child labor in these countries. Though great strides have been made, there is still more work that needs to be done.
Stakeholder 1: Department of Labor
The United States Department of Labor is taking many proactive measures to end the abusive cycle of international child labor. Its Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) leads the Department’s efforts to “ensure that workers around the world are treated fairly and are able to share in the benefits of the global economy (The U.S. Dept. of Labor). ILAB’s mission is to …improve working conditions, raise living standards, protect workers’ ability to exercise their rights, and address the workplace exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations” (The U.S. Dept. of Labor)....
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