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Sugar is an indispensable part of everyday life for the majority of the world population. People consume sugar eating sweets, chocolates, and cakes, drinking carbonated beverages, tea, and coffee. Human society is so accustomed to sugar that even language reflects a positive attitude towards this crystalline carbohydrate. Nevertheless, people rarely think at what price they enjoy candies and sweet tea. To reduce costs of human resources, sugar manufacturers exploit child labor on sugarcane plantations paying little money to their young workers. Children and adolescents have to work hard full day what inevitably affects their physical and mental health. The purpose of this paper is to analyze three articles about the unethical use of child labor by the manufacturers of sugar.
Life not Sweet: Article by Lah
The article Life not Sweet for Philippines’ Sugar Cane Child Workers by Kyung Lah was posted on edition.cnn.com on May 2, 2012. The author gives a broad overview of child labor as a common practice on sugarcane plantations in the Philippines. Even seven-year-old children can work full day under the blazing sun. At this age, they withdraw weeds from sugarcane rows. According to Lah, “the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates 2.4 million child workers are in the Philippines” (4). More than half of these children and adolescents are occupied in dangerous conditions. Children leave schools and go to work because their families starve. They do not have time to learn at work, and they become too tired after the shift to study at home. This situation leads to a high percentage of the illiterate population in the Philippines and consequently creates obstacles for the development of the country in terms of culture and technologies. Qualified labor is undermined by the abundance of cheap human resources. The population of Northern Mindanao in the Philippines accepts the use of child labor without any concern.
Families ask the owners of sugarcane plantations to give work to their children. The low level of life and the constant shortage of food are the primary reasons for this behavior. Parents see their children as capable workers without taking into account their young age. People in every part of the world have sugar on their tables because somewhere far away in the Philippines children work seven hours per day on plantations. The president of the Sugar Industry Foundation knows about the high percentage of child labor in the industry (Lah 16). From her point of view, the problem cannot be solved in the short term because of family traditions and the positive attitude of parents to child labor. The Coca-Cola Foundation as one of the biggest purchasers of sugar declares that it “does not support, encourage or endorse any form of child labor in our operations throughout our global bottling system or in our supplier network” (Lah 18).
Bitter Harvest: Study by Schwarzbach and Richardson
The article by Natasha Schwarzbach and Ben Richardson was published in the UC Davis Journal of International Law and Policy in 2014. The authors explore numerous aspects of child labor in sugarcane agriculture as a prominent issue in society. Schwarzbach and Richardson claim that “the agricultural sector employs an estimated 98 million children, or 59% of the total number of child laborers worldwide” (99). The authors try to classify the abusive work, enumerate the challenges in eradicating child labor, and list the existing certification standards in the sugarcane industry. The authors divide the abusive exploitation of child labor on sugarcane plantations in three categories: hazardous work, harmful adult work, and exploitative work (Schwarzbach and Richardson 100). Children and adolescents have to occupy themselves in dangerous activities. They use sharp tools, suffer from the chemicals used in the industry, endure long hours under the blazing sun on the hot field. They have to crouch and carry heavy objects, working as adults. Children work because their parents have no food. Therefore, they need to provide for themselves and their families. Children are paid less for their job in comparison to their adult coworkers, spending seven hours per day on the field. The main problem of eradicating child labor in the sugarcane industry is the inability and unwillingness of plantation owners and parents to recognize the problem. People see child labor as a common practice.
Hazardous Work: Research by Castro and Hunting
The study by Charita Castro and Katherine Hunting was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2013. The authors explore the risks of the agriculture industry for children and adolescents employed in fields in the Philippines. Several factors were measured in terms of their harmfulness to the physical and mental health of young workers. According to Castro and Hunting, “working in agriculture had a fivefold risk of non-fatal injury compared to children working in other industries” (709). The use of sharp tools in sugarcane fields can lead to serious lacerations. Carrying of heavy loads does irreversible damage to the spine and legs of children. Long exposure to bright sunlight and heat provokes the development of skin cancer. Monotonous work on the field exhausts children and adolescents, prevents the development of their mental capabilities, and leaves no time for school. Nevertheless, child labor in sugarcane fields is not considered as an abuse in the majority of developing countries.
Sugar is one of the basic food products in every household. People like to add sugar in tea and coffee, to consume it in the form of candies and desserts. Nevertheless, people do not think about the real price of sugar. The manufacturers of sugar unethically exploit child labor on their plantations paying little money to their workers. Children and adolescents are very vulnerable because they cannot evaluate the price of their labor. At the same time, they have to work hard long hours under the blazing sun. Exhaustion can seriously affect their physical and mental health. In the meantime, even parents do not consider child labor in sugarcane fields to be harmful. All the above facts support the need for strict control of child labor on sugarcane plantations.
Castro, Charita L., and Katherine Hunting. “Measuring Hazardous Work and Identifying Risk Factors for Non‐fatal Injuries Among Children Working in Philippine Agriculture.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine, vol. 56, no. 6, 2013, pp. 709-719.
Lah, Kyung, “Life Not Sweet for Philippines’ Sugar Cane Child Workers.” CNN, 2012, Web.
Schwarzbach, Natasha, and Ben Richardson. “A Bitter Harvest: Child Labor in Sugarcane Agriculture and the Role of Certification Systems.” UC Davis Journal of International Law and Policy, vol. 21, no. 1, 2014, pp. 99-128.