Sunday 28 October 2007

Not for kids

This story in the Guardian (no mentions yet in the Indian media) gives the lie to claims about child labour being banned. An extract:
Child workers, some as young as 10, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids, one of the most successful arms of the high street giant.

Speaking to The Observer, the children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings.

Gap said it was unaware that clothing intended for the Christmas market had been improperly subcontracted to a sweatshop using child labour. It announced it had withdrawn the garments involved while it investigated breaches of the ethical code imposed by it three years ago.

The discovery of the children working in filthy conditions in the Shahpur Jat area of Delhi has renewed concerns about the outsourcing by large retail chains of their garment production to India, recognised by the United Nations as the world's capital for child labour.
Link courtesy Shefali Srinivas on Facebook. Shefali also point to this video, and notes that it was posted months ago.

Gap Unveils New 'For Kids By Kids' Clothing Line

So much for GAP's being unaware.

Please see also this CRY press release, which says that India has the largest number of child labourers in the world.


Publia said...

I saw on TV last night that Gap is very unhappy about the child labor, does not condone it, and won't be selling the clothing. More troubling is that GAP says that the garments made by the children have been destroyed. This troubles me, because it seems that a better use of them would have been to send the garments home with the children so their families could benefit financially. I am sure that is why the children were working in the first place.

Almost all Americans are dead set against child labor, but since that hasn't been an issue here for a long time, we don't have any idea what to do to help out.

Manjula Padmanabhan said...

It's terribly sad but -- most likely -- had the clothes been given to the children, the guardians/parents of the children would have found a black-market in which to sell the clothes, rather than "waste" them on the poor labouring children.

I suppose, though, that would still have resulted in a net gain to the families, as against the children losing their jobs AND not getting the clothes.

Publia said...

I was thinking that maybe the parents could sell the clothes and let the children stay home for a while and do some things that children enjoy doing. I personally don't see anything terribly exciting about wearing Gap clothes.

The problem of child labor is usually a problem of extreme poverty. often exacerbated by families that are too large for urban life. Hopefully, there will be increasing economic uplift in India that will make child labor much less needful. Sending the children out to work is better than starvation, always, although it is a sad practice. If parents are able to support their families through increasing wealth, we can hope that child labor will become a thing of the past. In the US, this is pretty much our history of child labor, although we still have labor enforcement that zealously pursues any complaints. It is not illegal for children in the US to help out on a family farm or in a family business.

dipti said...

Says commenter Publia : 'I saw on TV last night that Gap is very unhappy about the child labor, does not condone it..'

Well, FYI, Gap along with some of the largest international clothing chains like Top Shop and Next, is one of the most blatant violators of the Ethical Trade Practice agreements not just with india but also with other south Asian countries(such as Sri lanka) where they source vendors for garments. While the child worker issue is as valid as it has always been, here it really is extraneous to the exploitation by retail chains like Gap and others. These guys beat down prices while negotiating with vendors and suppliers (who they subcontract the production to) flouting all the rules of the agreement that forbids the exploitation of developing economies through driving down prices below a specified level. Suppliers in India/Sri lanka/Nepal/wherever have no choice but to take their orders at very low margins and then employ children who they can get away with paying peanuts to. These labels sell in Uk and US markets at prices far LOWER than they did 10 years ago and buyers like our sympathetic commenter friends here should educate themselves as to why these brands can afford to sell at such low prices. Sorry, but Gap saying they do not condone their vendors employing child labour just does not cut it.