Monday, 23 June 2008

Child Labour; Do not kid yourselves.

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I am particularly proud of the post title. So proud that I am considering forwarding this post to The Sun, I could definitely take up a leading position at their 'Headline Pun' department, which certainly exists. Alas, jokes aside.

Firstly I am not pro-child labour. But I will discuss a few home truths that we in the West choose to willingly ignore. We enjoy cheap products that are produced using working standards that are illegal in our own countries. We also enjoy expensive products that are produced using child labour abroad. I have been holding my head in my hands for the last few days as the BBC hyped up the expose of Primark as being the big bad corporate abuser of the small and innocent of a dusty backstreet.

What is truly amazing firstly is that the pay is portrayed as a pittance. The narration placing all the emotive emphasis upon the pennies that are earned. Well, the reality is, that adults in these parts of the world are that poorly paid - there is such a thing as economy dictating factors such as this. Should the emphasis not be better placed on that fact? We are fortunate enough to enjoy legislation and an economy that can provide a minimum wage, but we must not lose sight that pennies/cents in these countries are effective hard currency. Again, do not mistake what I'm saying here, it is tough and it is poverty in our eyes, but pence makes a difference in these places not pounds. This was ironically shown by another BBC documentary demonstrating the conditions of Indian sweatshops recently in which totally unsuitable Guinea pigs, in the form of spoilt students, were sent to sew buttons and cry about having to excrete into an open pit all week. They earned something like 4p a day - yet there were local workers desperate for these jobs. Why? They were paid, fortunately or not, in line with what was expected. I digress once more.

I will not defer my main point of annoyance further. The public outcry by those whom for some reason believe themselves to be human friendly characters, whom show no fault and abide by all the principles by which they preach. They are the naive characters in life, who float from one room to another, eyes shut and just existing. The kind of individual who is sinfully boring to anyone with more than a single braincell and who cannot live one day of their lives without supping on fluorescent alcopop or dreaming of being rich and watching 'This Morning' all day long (like they do anyway).

These citizens are clothed in GAP jeans, Nike trainers, wear diamonds in their rings and use products produced in China. Let us analyse further. GAP and Nike consistently have sweatshop problems, they are not the only ones, how can multinational corporations control every single supply chain? Still, we are all aware of it and buy the products. Why? They are good quality, reliable etc. Most of the worlds diamonds are dredged from the deepest and most dangerous pits in Africa. Our lovable Health and Safety Executive would have a field day indeed. Still, our pompous naive wag adoring citizen friends adorn them with pride. And we all have plastic crap, metal things, cars, clothes, electronics - whatever - all made in China. A nation with massive human rights issues that I am probably being patronising when reminding you of. This is not even taking into account the levels of pollution that our collective Western greed has been happy to accept as the trade off, at arms length of course.

I have no opinion one way or the other on this - this is a piece out of frustration at uninformative and repetitive "investigative" reporting I suppose. Yes child labour is wrong, but, and this could is something that is worth considering I think; does the child have access to education? Do they need to work in order to survive? It is all unfortunately very rhetorical.

It is a horrible point of consideration and I am annoyed that the shock-horror nature of this kind of reporting refuses to address the concept of necessary evils. Should it be happening; no. Do the companies want it to be happening; no. But I have no doubt that without the jobs more third world children would starve. It is just too easy to get upset about this, but we are talking about massive socio-economic problems on a scale that is literally incomprehensible. Social commentators will no doubt analyse Britain's workhouse reforms, and Lawyers will always point at positive legislation. BUT - we are naive sensitive souls on this island, and seemingly we have lost all sense of feasibility. Our population was much smaller, manageable, it's barely 60 million now. India alone is already at 1.1 Billion souls. I would bow before the man who could legislate and make workable this idealistic notion of everyone living in green bountiful grasslands, full from dinner and having maximum working hours.

If another person tells me how shocked they were at the sight of a child stitching beads onto a Primark t-shirt I will repeat this questionable dialogue in full to them. Regardless of who is stitching it, or their age, is it not reasonable to assume that they do not enjoy the same culture, rights and pay as someone in the UK? The very cost of the item is the biggest hint to even the moronic. It is amusing that Primark should be singled out, as amusing as the notion that it took someone this long to wander around the middle of nowhere and find a kid with a needle.

But still, the same clueless folk will slip into their organically grown Cotton pyjamas, after locking their Toyota Prius in the garage, having read their paper produced on recycled paper and turn off the solar night-light genuinely believing they are changing the world. Because as we all know, consumer choice has changed the world before, right?

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