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Monday, March 09, 2015

CHILD LABOUR IN FOOTWEAR INDUSTRY: POSSIBLE OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH HAZARDS - Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 9, No. 1

The demand for inexpensive labor is an increasing problem throughout the developing world. While most people would point to the west and the ever increasing consumption of goods that drives this demand/ supply market. In some circumstances the demand for cheap labor comes from within individual developing countries, and the failure of their governments to implement policies to protect its citizens from exploitation is very much to blame.

The Guardian's recent publication: "Aid money for development projects in Nepal linked to child labor", supports the claim that so-called "blood-bricks", made by children as young as eight and who are working up to 15 hour days, are being funded by the very initiatives that are put in place to uplift the country from poverty (development aid money). In effect, the money being invested is doing the opposite of what it is meant to do and increasing the already problematic exploitation of children that exists today. 

Pete Pattisson, who is the author of the above story, further goes on to suggest that the use of child labor in the production of "blood bricks" is far-reaching in many development projects throughout Nepal and has been systematically traced back to United Kingdom aid money in one such circumstance. Pattisson further suggests that it is estimated that up to 28,000 children are working in brick kilns across Nepal, with an estimated half being that of the age of 14 or under. This alarming number is due to the lack of policies, and the failure of adherence of existing ones, by the many aid agencies and governments throughout the development chain. 

The exploitation of children within the labor force is staggering throughout developing countries, and no more is this issue apparent than in India. The West's overconsumption of goods and the need for a bargain-price creates a market of impoverished children whom work long hours for very little, or in some cases, no pay at all. 

Rajnarayan R. Tiwari in his journal: "Child Labour in Footwear Industry: Possible Health Hazards", provides a more concrete study of the potential risks and overall health hazards involved with such unethical businesses practices. He states that the Government of India has acknowledged that at least 17.5 million children are being used as workers throughout its export industry. Further, is the fact that the footwear industry is considered to be one of the most significant within India, as well as globally- next to China. Children between the ages of 10 - 15 years of age are mainly employed in assembling shoes, while approximately 80 percent work for contractors at home.

Some of the processes involved in producing footwear for export are: cutting patterns, sewing, assembling, and finishing. While finishing consists of soling (fixing upper potions of the shoes to leather or rubber soles) with glue. The child workers are cramped in poorly lit rooms and suffer from continuous inhalation and skin contact of toxic industrial adhesives. Thus most of these children suffer from respiratory problems, lung diseases, and skin infections. The more serious side effects being that of: nasal cancer, neurotoxicity and adverse physical factors. 

It is suggested by Rajnarayan, that child labor be abolished completely within the production of goods and services in India and to allow the child to be a bread eater, instead of a bread earner.

For this journal and others from this issue, click here.


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