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Child labor in Bangladesh
April 15, 2009 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Child labor in Bangladesh
posted by Joe Beese (28 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Horrible.
posted by orme at 9:42 AM on April 15, 2009


Now, what are you going to do about it?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:52 AM on April 15, 2009


god.
posted by jbickers at 10:06 AM on April 15, 2009


people: cheaper than machines.
posted by klanawa at 10:06 AM on April 15, 2009


He earns about 500 taka (7 USD) a month, working 10 hours a day. When the production often stops due to lack of electricity, he has time to play.

It's probably a dubious prospect to wish for infrastructure failures, but here's to lots of power outages so you can be a kid, kid.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:17 AM on April 15, 2009


I couldn't even make it through the entire thing...

I think that first pic totally shocked me - the kid being literally covered in soot or paint or metal or whatever it is.

I went to church last week, and although I am somewhat religious, the only prayer I was able to muster up was the same prayer I will say right now:

Dear God,
No disrespect intended, but the world today - WTF? Seriously man, WTF?
Thanks.
Your friend,
bitteroldman

posted by bitteroldman at 10:32 AM on April 15, 2009


Bitteroldman, I say this not to downplay the horror of the hundreds of millions of children laborers, rather to help you see hope for recovery, but there may be less child labor now than ever.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:53 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Incredible portraits, incredible subjects.
posted by JBennett at 11:18 AM on April 15, 2009



The lack of comments about this speaks volumes.
posted by notreally at 11:46 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]



It is heart wrenching.
posted by notreally at 11:47 AM on April 15, 2009


Pollomacho, thanks. It's nice to read that things are improving.

And agreed, that we as a global community probably treat each other better overall than our ancestors in the past, so we can feel better about this fact at least.

And more importantly, for every ounce of evil and bad luck that exists in the world, there are dozens if not hundreds of people who are dedicating their lives to making things right.

Thanks again for the article.
posted by bitteroldman at 11:54 AM on April 15, 2009


It is heartwrenching to think that those who are working are probably better off than those from the same impoverished background who are not. this is not to approve of child labor but to point out that life on the edge of starvation in one of the world's poorer countries is definitely not pretty.
posted by adamvasco at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


.
posted by shii at 1:17 PM on April 15, 2009


Would it be more effective to ban child labour, or to declare that you can hire children, but you have to pay them as much as adults? The real crime here is that the children are paid less for the same work, and not provided with the same equiptment.

And how do the adult workers feel at being undercut in their labour? There is a reason that unions campaigned against child labour elsewhere in the world, and it was not all out of human feeling for children (though that was, of course, part of it).
posted by jb at 1:58 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The real crime here is that the children are paid less for the same work, and not provided with the same equiptment.

No. I don't think so. I don't know how to exactly articulate what the real crime here is, but it's not that. It's that these little kids are living in a world where they have to work like that.

We live in a criminal world.
posted by elmer benson at 3:20 PM on April 15, 2009


I have no words to express the sadness I feel looking at those children. I have stopped a long time ago buying from companies that use sweatshops, but this is far beyond sweatshops.
posted by francesca too at 3:49 PM on April 15, 2009


People ask me why I don't believe in God. This is one of those reasons. If He existed, how could He possibly tolerate 5 year olds trolling garbage dumps for survival?
posted by barc0001 at 6:28 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The real crime here is that the children are paid less for the same work, and not provided with the same equiptment."

No. I don't think so. I don't know how to exactly articulate what the real crime here is, but it's not that. It's that these little kids are living in a world where they have to work like that.


You're right - I wasn't that happy with the phrase "The real crime", but it was a cliche, and thus came easily.

I think what I meant was that the way the children are paid piles yet another moral crime on an already bad situation. It makes their situation so much worse, and gives a perverse economic incentive to using child labour instead of adult labour, which can't be helping their mothers and fathers.

But I still don't think that the answer to child labour is just to ban it - that's just taking away what little these children have. I think that the solutions have to be context dependent, and one approach might be to regulate child labour, insist on higher wages more like adults and shorter hours, perhaps providing some education - make it less attractive to use children just as cheap labour, while still leaving open the possibility for children to work to support their families and themselves. Because as much as we may dislike it, that's the reality of their lives and society, and will be until there is fundamental changes in the development and economy of Bangladesh.
posted by jb at 7:24 PM on April 15, 2009


Serious question.

Why don't developed countries implement legislation forbidding imports from manufacturers that don't pay their workers a livable wage.
posted by Talez at 9:58 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately Talez, that's not a workable solution unless you want to spend a lot of government money sending staff over to be monitoring other countries and their factories. And in all likelihood even that wouldn't work. We've already seen examples where the response to activists trying to expose this exploitation in other countries has only led to the factories imposing draconian security and going to great lengths to keep any potential informers out. To be perfectly honest, part of me is amazed that these pictures even exist. Taken with professional equipment, subjects in some cases even posing a bit for the camera. I'm used to seeing these things taken with a crappy pinhole camera surreptitiously hidden inside a hat or similar.

Sometimes even the governments of these places are in on it, and that's only with the embarrassment/activist pressure angle on the importer company. If you actually outlawed imports from countries that do this, all you'd do is make sure that these factories are hidden away in some town that nobody ever travels to as an outsider.
posted by barc0001 at 1:36 AM on April 16, 2009


that's not a workable solution

True, that.

What would be a workable solution is to use micro-financing to get locals to create some kind of business that would be both clean, and more profitable for the kids. If at all possible, it would involve education, but getting there would probably take many small steps.

Getting regulations and stuff from developed countries doesn't work. Boycotting companies that both operate in developed countries and profit from these crimes against humanity (that's what I think they are) is helpful, but not near enough. The local people need alternatives, and they need to be involved in developing those alternatives by themselves.

A very big task indeed.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:42 AM on April 16, 2009


Boycotting businesses that use child labor may actually cause more harm than good. Read what happened in Bangladesh (p60) when the garment industry laid off 50,000 children. The children didn't just disappear - they had to find alternative employment, and many ended up in the sex trade.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 11:43 AM on April 16, 2009


> We live in a criminal world.
> posted by elmer benson at 6:20 PM on April 15 [+] [!]

We live in a Darwinian world, and find it horrifying.
posted by jfuller at 3:13 PM on April 16, 2009


We live in a world, and its effects are largely the result of our causes.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:20 PM on April 16, 2009


What most of us make in a month would be the yearly GDP for a village in Bangladesh. What would stop us from going over there or even forming a collective that would setup factories with higher wages, safe working conditions, schools for little ones and generally outcompete the shitty factories. Bring the products back and sell them for minimal profit without traditional company overhead (brand marketing, profit) and sell them on a "helping the developing world develop instead of exploiting" angle.
posted by Talez at 5:16 PM on April 16, 2009


Unfortunately Talez, that's not a workable solution unless you want to spend a lot of government money sending staff over to be monitoring other countries and their factories.

It did work - favourable trade deals were given by the US to Cambodia, so long as they promised to enforce good conditions in their clothing factories. And Cambodia now has some of the better working conditions in southeast Asia - including (I think) maternity leave. (Sorry, I would cite, but I heard it on a radio show). The economic downturn has been hard for them, especially as they may be loosing their special trade status. But one of the big competitors for Cambodia is Bangladesh, who are undercutting Cambodian manufacturers with child labour.
posted by jb at 6:34 PM on April 16, 2009


Wow.

My family is from there. The gap in income is huge - you either have a driver or you are the driver. Education is prized in Bangladesh, but at the same time if you can't even afford to eat how would you afford to learn? I recognise the roadside flower sellers. We used to have teens as housemaids.

The comments on that site sadden me. Bangladesh is the way it is now because they lost a lot of resources during the war that led to their independence. Not only did Pakistan destroy a lot of infrastructure, like buildings and bridges, they also systematically killed university students - the best brains of the country. That, plus the constant familial power struggles, and international inequalities (such as the Concert for Bangladesh money never arriving), just makes it more and more difficult.

Bangladesh is developing really quickly and the majority do live a comfortable existence. But if you're on the streets, far away from your villages, having to rely on handouts...it can be a harsh existence.

I feel out of place in Bangladesh due to my upbringing, but the one thing I wish I could do is mobilise Bangladesh's youth to create direct change - in honour of all the university students that were killed in the war. Even something like a Big Issue magazine (which may go over well since Bangladesh finds language crucial) would do well. I know there are many efforts happening here and there. However, reading the editorials of the youth papers is depressing - so cynical and boring and self-centered. urgh.

What can we do?
posted by divabat at 6:43 PM on April 16, 2009


It did work - favourable trade deals were given by the US to Cambodia,

Two different things, jb. Talez was asking about sanctions, you're talking incentives. Consider these two scenarios:

1) Do what I say or I won't buy anything from you.
2) I have some nice shiny gold in my hand. If you do as I ask, I'd enjoy giving you some on top of my regular payments for your goods.

#1 might or might not work. Usually not.
#2 almost always works, because the upside more than offsets the downside.
posted by barc0001 at 11:14 PM on April 16, 2009


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