Nike, Child Labor

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Pakistan has a per-capita income of $1,900 per year -meaning that a typical person survives barely on $5 per day. And that's nonot all, Pakistan has a traditional culture where earning of one person goes on feeding 10 mouths; and with the high rate of inflation it becomes difficult for a low income population to survive. Child labor is spread all over Pakistan but has the greatest impact in the north-west of punjab province, that is Sialkot. Pakistan has a population of approximately 1 million and is an important centre for the production of goods for export to international markets, particularly sporting goods. In 1994, exports from Sialkot brought income of almost US$ 385 million into the Pakistan economy. Sialkot is thus one of the world’s most important centres for production of sporting goods. Child labor exists in Sialkot both in the export sector and the domestic sector. This fact has been well documented and reported by the international media for several years but nothing has been done about it. In Pakistan it is clearly documented that child labor is against the law, but the government carries lack of willingness to do anything about it. Provision for education is very limited, due to the fact that very low priority is given to education in the national budgets. Education receives around 3% of the total gross domestic product when compared to over ten times of this amount spent on military. Gender and other forms of discrmination plus adding to the lack of political will, gives the clear picture of the existence of child labor in Pakistan.

Nike as a helper or exploiter to IIIrd World

Recently if you go to a shop to buy your child a new soccer ball. There is a good possibility that the ball has been made by someone your child's age or even younger. About half of the world's soccer ball are made in Pakistan, and each one of them passes through a process of production where child labor is involved. This problem not only pertains to Pakistan but is worldwide. More than 200 children, some as young as 4 and 5 years of age, are involved in the production line. Majority of these children work in Asia, e.g in the nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Nike is characterized of making its equipments in countries which are in the developing phase, having very cheap labor, authoritarian government and lack of human rights appeal and union movement. In doing this it has made greater margins on the cost of mere cents to its workers. So Nike success story is not based on good name and advertising alone but also attached to it is the tears of tortured workers and child labor.

A columnist 'Stephen Chapman' from Libertarian newspaper argues that "But why is it unconscionable for a poor country to allow child labor? Pakistan has a per-capita income of $1,900 per year - meaning that the typical person subsists on barely $5 per day. Is it a a revelation - or a crime - that some parents willingly send their children off to work in a factory to survive? Is it cruel for Nike to give them the chance?" (source: http://www.raincity.com/~williamf/words96.html)

Stephen argues that the best way to end child-labor is to buy more of the products that children produce. This would increase their demand, and as they will produce more, they will earn more, hence giving themselves chane to rise above poverty level and thus also benefiting the families of the children and as well as the nation.

However, the issue is not that simple. Increasing the demand of the products produced by child labor means encouraging more child labor, encouraging more birth rates, more slavery, increasing sweatshops and discouraging education - as parents of the children working in factories would want them to work more and earn more. If this happened to be the case, then more and more children will be bought and sold on the black market, leading no end to this problem. By encouraging more child labor, you are not...
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