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Child labor refers to the participation of children in work that harms their well-being, affects their schooling and normal development, as well as prospects for their future. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has developed laws that protect children from child labor.
The Minimum Age convention No. 138 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182 have established guidelines that govern national laws on practices that are both acceptable and unacceptable about employment (O’Toole & Mayer, 2013). For example, they have set a limit for the minimum age allowed for employment. The conventions describe the minimum employment age as that above the age for completing obligatory education.
The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work advocates for the abolishment of child labor around the world. In the recent past, many businesses and international organizations have been accused of engaging in child labor.
Businesses prefer child labor because it is cheap and readily available. Also, there are no clear guidelines to regulate the terms of employment (O’Toole & Mayer, 2013). Nike, Victoria Secret, Firestone, Hershey, and Walmart engage in child labor because it is cheap and thus enables them to reduce costs of production and maximize profits.
Nike has been accused severally of promoting child labor in its production factories in Pakistan and Cambodia. For example, it uses children to produce balls in its production factory in Pakistan (Boggan, 2001). The Pakistani government has stringent laws that protect children against child labor. However, it has done little to enforce the laws and curb the illegal activity.
In Pakistan, many people survive barely on five dollars per day because of its low per-capita income. Also, their culture involves sharing the earnings of one person with the entire family. The high rate of inflation has exerted great economic pressure on poor people, thus pushing children to work in factories to earn money to support their poor families (Boggan, 2001).
According to O’Toole & Mayer (2013), “more than 200 children are involved in the production of balls in Pakistan. These children are as young as 4 and five years of age”. Nike has been found guilty of child labor mainly in Asian countries that include Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh (Boggan, 2001). The reason for Nike’s use of child labor is the reduction of production cost and maximization of profits.
Research has revealed that Nike sets up production factories in countries that tolerate child labor due to their weak labor laws. It also uses child labor in its factories in China and Vietnam. Nike has taken advantage of its internationally recognized brand to conceal its involvement in child labor practices (O’Toole & Mayer, 2013).
Also, it has used its well-developed methods of marketing and advertisement to absolve itself of any involvement in illegal practices. To hide its illegal practices, Nike promotes charity work and donates equipment to poor neighborhoods in developing countries. In Vietnam, it contracts factories that violate the minimum wage required for employment (Boggan, 2001).
Also, these factories violate laws that regulate the length and remuneration of overtime. Contractors establish factories in free trade zones and hire children to work for them. Working conditions are poor, and children are forced to work long hours.
They are mistreated if they disobey their supervisors (Boggan, 2001). In 2001, a documentary produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation highlighted the plight of children working under poor conditions in Nike’s Cambodian factories.
In 2011, Victoria Secret was accused of using child labor to produce cotton in Burkina Faso (Krupnick, 2011). In 2007, the company made a deal with the government of Burkina Faso to buy cotton from local farmers as a way of improving the lives of poor people in the country. Reports indicate that children who work in cotton farms are physically abused, denied food, and forced to do strenuous work (Krupnick, 2011).
The company said that they were not aware of the problem because they use contracted companies to buy the products from the country. They claimed that child labor practices were against the precepts of their company and international labor laws. Fairtrade International admitted that they were informed of the allegations of child labor in the cotton farms.
According to Krupnick (2011), “foster children are forced to work in the farms and denied their right to attend school.” Many of them evade school so that they can work on the farms and make some money. Accusations against Victoria Secret for child labor emerged as early as the year 2008 in a report that highlighted the proliferation of child labor in cotton production fields (Krupnick, 2011).
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The United States of America’s government found it difficult to investigate the claims because the company colluded with the government of Burkina Faso to bar investigators from visiting the farms. In their defense, Victoria Secret said that by buying cotton from farmers, they improved the quality of their lives tremendously.
Children were told to desist from giving information to people who wanted to know about the working conditions in the farms (Krupnick, 2011).
Walmart is one of the businesses that have been severally accused of promoting child labor. In 2005, Walmart was exposed for using child labor in two of its largest factories in Bangladesh (Foley, 2009). According to reports, children between the ages of 10 and 14 worked in the two factories for a monthly payment of less than $50. The products made in the factories were exported to countries like Canada and the United States.
According to Wal (2006), “Walmart uses child labor because it is cheap and enables them to set low prices for their products to gain a competitive advantage in the market.” Child labor is common because Walmart subcontracts other companies to handle the large volumes of products processed daily.
Many of these companies use child labor as a means of cutting cost (Foley, 2009). A study conducted on the labor practices of Walmart revealed that the company violates international labor standards by employing children as young as 14 years of age and overworking them (Foley, 2009). Children who work in their factories work for 72 hours every week. In other locations, children are forced to work overtime without remuneration.
They suffer hunger and dehydration because they are denied food and water. In 2005, Walmart paid $200,000 in fines for violation of 1,436 child labor laws in its factories (Wal, 2006).
Before issuance of the fines, the government had warned Walmart against promoting child labor practices. However, they persisted and made children work for ten days concurrently without breaks. The violations were reported in several locations, including New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Arkansas (Foley, 2009).
Hershey is a chocolate production business based in the United States. The company was accused of using child labor in its cocoa fields (Bloxham, 2012). In 2012, Grant and Eisenhofer filed a lawsuit against Hershey for contracting suppliers that promoted child labor practices. Another lawsuit was filed by an investor group that accused Hershey of overlooking reports of child labor practices among its West African suppliers (Bloxham, 2012).
The group accused the company’s management of buying products from farms that used child labor to produce cocoa. In defense, the management denied the accusations and revealed its mission of buying products from certified suppliers by the year 2020. The management also said that it was working hard to eradicate child labor in cocoa-growing communities.
According to Hershey (2010), “the company did not take the initiative to stop the practices because that would affect its operations, lower its profits, and shrink its market share.” Eradication of child labor will be possible if businesses take responsibility, establish stringent policies, and implement labor laws that fight child labor.
Firestone is one of the most successful tire production companies in the world. However, behind its success are accusations of child labor practices. Firestone runs a large rubber plantation in Liberia where workers work for long hours and low remuneration. Newman (2007) stated, “parents bring their children along with them to the plantations to increase their earnings and meet their daily production targets.”
Children are forced to carry heavy loads and work for more than 12 hours per day. They encounter health risks by coming into contact with pesticides used to protect the cotton plants against attack by pests (Newman, 2007). Reports have revealed that children as young as ten years work under poor work conditions and face the risk of intoxication by harmful chemicals used in the plantations.
Also, they are exposed to the risk of injury because of poor implementation of safety measures (Newman, 2007). They are overworked and underpaid. These children drop from school to work in the plantations with their parents.
In Liberia, child labor is rampant mainly due to the reduced financial abilities of families that cannot sustain themselves. Firestone uses child labor because it is readily available and cheap (Newman, 2007). Parents come with their children to work and do nothing to ensure that they are not forced to work.
Child labor is an international problem that affects many children, especially in underdeveloped countries. Businesses promote child labor because it is readily available and cheap. It helps them to reduce production costs and maximize profits to gain competitive advantages in the market. Businesses that engage in child labor include Nike, Victoria Secret, Walmart, Hershey, and Firestone.
These businesses target countries that have free trade areas and weak labor laws — some of the contract companies that use child labor in their farms and factories. Several international conventions have been formed to fight against child labor.
For example, the Minimum Age convention No. 138 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182 have established guidelines that govern national laws on practices that are acceptable and unacceptable about employment.
Some businesses employ children as young as five years of age. These children are overworked, underpaid, denied food and water, and exposed to health hazards that affect their health. Also, they abandon school so that they can work in these factories and earn money.
Bloxham, E. (2012). Chocolate and Child Labour: A Hurdle for Hershey. Retrieved from http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2012/11/16/hershey-child-labor-suit/
Foley, S. (2009). Walmart Embroiled in Child Labour Scandal. Retrieved from http://www.independent.ie/world-news/walmart-embroiled-in-child-labour-scandal-26578131.html
Krupnick, E. (2011). Victoria’s Secret Uses Child Labour-Produced Cotton from Burkina Faso. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/victorias-secret-child-labor_n_1150883.html
Newman, T. (2007). Child labour behind Firestone Tires. Retrieved from https://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/06/12/1826
O’Toole, J., & Mayer, D. (2013). Good Business: Exercising Effective and Ethical Leadership. New York: Routledge.
Wal, S. (2006). Child Labour in Various Industries. New York: Sarup & Sons.