Child labour and the Western response: What is a responsible approach to child labour in the developing world?

In a globalized world, competition in production has enabled the global multi-nationals to take advantage of cheap labour and lower working standards in producing cheap commodities for the Western market. Attempts by workers competing for jobs in these markets have often forced highly exploitative conditions upon the workers, and at the bottom of the huge pool of available labour are children, who are often chosen deliberately over adults because they can be exploited more ruthlessness than the latter. What are the real circumstances confronting child workers and what is the effect of interference by those in the west genuinely trying to make conditions better for working children? This discussion examines the dangers and offers an approach that will assist in coming to grips with the reality of work that many children in developing countries face.

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...s daily, with a break of just one hour in the middle of the day. An outcry about this caused the girls to be sent home to the villages from which they had been recruited. But in their home villages and with no income, they spent their time in unpaid and remorseless domestic labour until they could be married off, usually before puberty, to face a short and hazardous life as a wife and young mother, in a society where there is little if any medical treatment for any women, let alone newly married wives facing childbirth at the age of 14 who are at enormous risk of gynecological problems. One of the girls taken from the factory said that she liked working at the factory, because at least she had an hour to herself every day, reasonable food and a little money. She had none of this in her home village and no prospect of it after marriage. Children who are discharged from such employment because of international pressure on their employers very often have no safety net, and end up in worse conditions.

In fact, most child labour in the developing world occurs not in sweatshops for the export of products such as shoes and garments, but in agriculture and domestic servitude. Sweatshops are reported in the Western press because they produce manufactured goods aimed at the international market, yet only five per cent of child workers are employed in this sector. ...