Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Is cheap stuff worth child labor?- MSN Money


From smartphones to chocolates to soccer balls, many of the products you use may be made by child workers or tied to other labor abuses. Here's how 7 companies have faced the heat on these issues.

By Michael Brush, MSN Money

The hands of an Indian child laborer are seen as he sits in a police van after being rescued during a raid by workers from Save the Childhood Movement at a garment factory in New Delhi in 2012. © Kevin Frayer/AP Photo
Do consumers even care?

Sure, your new iPhone 5 is sweet. But would you like it so much if you knew parts of it were made by a child in China?
Unfortunately, that could be the case.
Last week, Apple (AAPL) announced it had found more than 100 cases of child labor in its supply chain in 2012, including one Chinese company that employed 74 children younger than 16.
Apple deserves kudos, though, for examining its supply chain and sharing the results publicly. If Apple hadn't told us, we might never have known.
A lot of companies fail to go this far. And that's a big reason that child labor is still so prevalent around the world. Children may have helped produce that cotton fabric in your shirt, the chocolate you love and the soccer balls your kids kick around on Saturdays.
Globally, about 215 million children between 5 and 14 work, 115 million of them in hazardous jobs, estimates the International Labor Organization. UNICEF believes nearly one in six children, ages 5 to 14, works. Child labor is most prevalent in agriculture, but it also appears to be common in consumer electronics and apparel production in China.
And child labor is only one of many ongoing worker abuses around the globe, says Kathleen Hamill, who teaches human rights courses at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Other kinds of abuse at foreign companies that produce cheap stuff for U.S. consumers include lousy pay, excessive unpaid overtime and dangerous working conditions.
So why hasn't anyone said “Enough!” and drawn a line in the sand? Politicians seem more concerned with free trade than with labor issues. And many U.S. companies still don't police their suppliers. "A lot of the monitoring they do is not very robust," says Farnam Bidgoli, an analyst with Sustainalytics, which analyzes corporate auditing efforts for investors.
You can also blame complacent consumers, including perhaps yourself. "It's not on the minds of most people when they go to buy things," says Terrence Guay, an associate professor at the Penn State Smeal College of Business. "People just think, 'Where can I get the cheapest stuff?'"
Click through this slide show, published Feb. 5, for a look at seven companies you might regularly buy from that have come under fire for child labor or other worker abuses -- and how they've responded. At the end, I'll show you a way to watchdog other companies you buy from.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment