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Childs Play

Today one in eight children arent at school.

Theyre not skipping class, playing with their friends, or off sick- these kids are already engaged in full time, adult employment. Perhaps making the T-shirt you are wearing, or stitching your next pair of trainers.

In June 2002 the International Labour Organisations report A Future without Child Labour revealed 350 million children currently work. Only106 million of these do so in safe conditions for an acceptable amount of time. The rest are employed in jobs, which can cost them their health and happiness.

Although the vast majority of children work as domestic, farm or fishing labourers, 5% of working children are employed in the export sector. This is not many until you think each of these children may live like Jitti, thirteen-year old Thai boy who told Free the Children he works 11-14 hours a day. Employed in a leather factory he spends the whole day inhaling glue fumes, and earns just $45 a month with two days off. After paying a middleman he has $29 to help his family and try to survive.

HAPPY FAMILIES?

Many people believe children work because their parents are cruel, uncaring or lazy. But the fact is many families cannot survive without the money their children earn. On average working children bring in 20% of a families income - which could be the difference between starvation and survival.

The need for this money means children pulled out of jobs may just look for work in less visible, more dangerous fields. Free the Children, an international children's Ngo explain that in 1993 a US bill was proposed to prevent garments made by children being imported into America. Instead of protecting children it led to many Bangladeshi child workers being fired, faced with destitution they were forced to turn to brick breaking and prostitution. Incredibly our gut reaction to boycott products can then create even more damage to children

STICKING PLASTER SOLUTIONS

Child labour is caused by a number of factors, although poverty is perceived as the overriding one, opportunity and cultural perceptions also play their part. Working towards a long term solution needs the myths surrounding child labour to be exploded, and the will created to protect the most vulnerable members of society. According to the ILO, The struggle against child labour is first and foremost a matter of changing attitudes People must be convinced that child labour not only should be abolished, but can be abolished.

Education is essential, without it children become trapped in a cycle of low paid work continuing into adulthood and forcing them to send their own children out to work. Sometimes they are so damaged by their work when they were children, as adults they cannot work at all. In the Southern Indian state of Kerala, there is very little child labour, despite India having the highest child labour rates in the world. This is only because there is free, compulsory education. For the poorest families exams, schoolbooks or transport, are also paid for- helping those too poor to take advantage of even free schools.

HARD SUMS

Privatised education can actually push children into hazardous employment. Tanzania had an incredible 96% literacy rate in the late 1970s due to its compulsory education. Now the literacy rate is dropping at 2% because the country is paying twice as much in debts to rich countries as it spends on education. The IMF and World Bank have pressured countries into reduce social spending in their structural adjustment programmes and education necessarily suffers. A case report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), showed almost 50% of children interviewed in a Tanzanian mines were there to save money to pay their school fees. Economic institutions and richer countries need to cancel their debts and stop loans being contingent on reduced social spending to show their commitment to end childrens misery.

HELP! For individual children stipends or micro-credit schemes can help. Free the Children have a simple project helping children stay at school in India by buying cows for women to milk as an alternative income. Educating and mobilising communities on Childrens Rights also prevents exploitation. Supporting Trade Unions can also prevent child labour.

For children in the worst forms of labour, such as bonded labour and prostitution, only immediate removal and rehabilitation is acceptable. For most children a short-term solution would be combining education and work. Perhaps the most obvious answers would be to ensure the fare wages of adults. If this was achieved they could support their children without sending them out to work

Governments promise time and time again to end child labour. But it is time for consumers to take action. As well as buying Fair Trade goods the ILO recommends

1. Lobby your government to ratify and apply ILO Conventions to the letter.
2. Pressure your local authorities to enforce laws on education.
3. Urge your trade union to take up the cause at home, or in solidarity with unions abroad.
4. Urge your employers confederation to start relevant programmes.
5. Join and support national or international non-governmental organizations active in the field.
6. Help create or run educational alternatives for working children.
7. Talk to children and parents to encourage them into alternatives.
8. Urge local, national and international news media to raise awareness about child labour.
9. Distribute IPEC and other anti-child labour documentation.
10. Be an informed consumer and traveller.

Submitted by:

Davinos Greeno

Davinos Greeno works for the ethical directory which sells fairtrade shoes plus we have Ethical Company Articles for you to read or publish.




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