I’m writing this article about child labour with disgust, but with the hope that it will help readers to understand that the continuos search for a cheaper price creates a slave labour market; in the XXI century, the slaves are the children from the poorest families.This terrible practice has ancient roots, in fact the procedure started long time ago but sadly continues into present times. Originally children were employed in agricoulture and as sheperds.
The History of child labour
The first confirmed facts we have about child labour date from the Industrial Revolution. Fabric production and fashion are two areas that definately gave a boost to this phenomen. Certainly in that era the spinning and textile mills had a very high need for manual labour at a low cost, moreover children with their small hands were perfect to thread and work the machines. Due to their tender age they were very easy to exploit and force into slavery. It’s hard to imagine but their daily shift was generally 15 working hours and the pay was so low that it did not even cover the cost of their food. Similary the use of child labour was widespread in the mines, this enviroment with the dangerous working conditions and malnutrition was responsible for the highest number of infant deaths.
(Child labour – spinning mill)
(Child labour – textile mill)
In Europe, this practice continued in a very particular way; the famous Verdingkinder or child slaves were used in Germany until 1920 and Switzerland until 1980. These children were removed from the poorest families (or very often illegitimate) and given to other families where they were exploited and often badly treated. It is only in recent times that Switzerland has tried to remedy this horror trying to compensate the survivors of this madness. Books have been written about these terrible events; the most famous being ” Resli il piccolo bracciante” which tells the story of a Swiss boy, who was sent away to become a servant. As the book reveals he was treated like a slave.
In the current state of affairs it is estimated that there are aproximately 250 million working children in the world. This appalling figure includes not only the developing areas such as Africa, Asia, South America and East Europe but also the industrialized countries. As you can expect the use of child labour can still be found in the agricultural sector , were they are used as manual labourers, but sadly also in the production process of famous multi national companies; mainly in the fields of sporting goods such as balls, trainers, and even clothing. Child labour creates a vicious circle, because of the children who work can’t go to school and the result they remain illitterate; as a result they are easily manipulated and furthermore exploited until death.
Very important is the example of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani boy who rebelled against child slavery and he became the symbol of the fight against child labour. After his death, in 1995 which happened in a obscure way, probably endorsed by the Pakistani carpet mafia, Iqbal became a hero; this fact brought about stricter controls by the Pakistani authorities regarding the use of child labour.
How many and where?
Even though Italy abolished child labour in 1967, it seems there are still roughly 140.000 child labours aged between 7 and 14 years old working illegally. Here is a list of countries where this problem has reached biblic proportions.
India 55-60 million
China tens of millions
Pakistan 8 million
Bangladesh 15 million
Thailand 5 million
Nigeria 10 million
Brasil 7 million
Egypt 1,4 million (government estimate)
Philippines 5,7 million
Our company condemns this practice, and works in the respect of Italian laws in the matter of labour. I hope that this article, will help in the fight against the child labour, and i invite all the consumers including myself, to consider ethical questions before buying any product. Researching where and by whom a product is made will certainly help to reduce this terrible practice. Recently we have seen a great movement towards the protection of animals, for instance the war against fur; the results have been incredible. What I haven’t seen is the same fight for the rights of these poor children.