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Government Reports, Legislation, Statistics: Child Labor (page 2)
Below are excerpts and statistics from Volume II of By the Sweat and Toil of Children Volumes I and II: The Use of Child Labor in U.S. Agricultural Imports & Forced and Bonded Child Labor:
"Often forced to work in harsh conditions without protective
safety equipment, many children are injured in the course of their work. Children also work
extremely long hours without rest; fatigue makes them more susceptible to accidents.
Dangerous working conditions, excessive physical strain, malnutrition, and regular exposure
to disease-carrying animals and toxic chemicals lead to lung, skin, and respiratory diseases,
back injuries, and permanent physical handicaps and deformities. Few children receive the
medical care required to remedy these ailments." (39)
This excerpt gives a slightly more detailed description of modern child labor and draws parallels to the descriptions in The Jungle of child labor of the Gilded Age.
"A recent report from India documents the incidence of
bonded child labor in seafood
cleaning factories. In February 1995 the Bombay Times described a seafood factory in
Ratnagiri, India, a coastal city approximately 100 miles south of Bombay, that employs 30
girls who clean fish and shrimp continuously for 12 hours per day. Young girls were lured
from Kerala and Tamil Nadu with promises of good jobs in Bombay, but were instead taken
by private bus to seafood factories where they were forced to work under harsh conditions.
The Times reported that in the area around Ratnagiri there has been a boom in the number
of child workers in marine products and canning factories, but that the district administration
and police have largely ignored the problem.
Parents received an advance of 400 rupees (approximately $12.00) from a recruiter,
which was deducted from the girls' earnings. For a period of 3 months while the debt was
being paid off, the girls received no salary. The girls were paid Rs. 1.50 (approximately
$0.04) for each basket of fish they cleaned. One girl stated that she could clean no more than
five baskets of fish per day. Often she was so tired she had to take a day of unpaid leave.
In 1994 the United States imported $122 million of shrimp, and $27 million of other
fresh and processed fish and seafood from India." (40)
This description depicts the nature of forced or bonded child labor today, even worse than the voluntary child labor described in The Jungle.
"In Guatemala, children as young as 6 or 8 assist their
parents during the harvest
season. They pick and sort beans, carry sacks of coffee, and sometimes handle fertilizers,
herbicides, and insecticides without proper health and safety equipment. Children work from
8 to 12 hours per day, often without legally required benefits such as July and Christmas
bonuses, vacations, and severance pay. 181
One report in 1990 found that men who traditionally picked coffee on plantations
were being fired as permanent employees and replaced by women and children hired at less
pay. Women and children reportedly receive about $0.50 per day, half the wage of adult 182
men. Children begin to pick beans when they are old enough to reach the lower branches
of trees and are able to determine which beans to pick. The report mentions that children as
young as 6 years old picked and sorted the coffee beans. Boys also routinely carried sacks
of beans weighing 75-150 pounds for several miles to the weighing stations. Researchers at
one plantation found poor medical facilities, no schools, poor sanitary conditions, and a
communal water supply that consisted of a single spigot.
In 1994 the United States imported $225 million of coffee from Guatemala." (41)
This excerpt depicts the nature of child labor today (not forced or bonded) in a country from which America imported "$225 million" of coffee. The children are put to work far before the minimum age as outlined in Convention 138 (see previous page).
"Sugar cane cutting is extremely dangerous work; sugar
cane workers have an average
working life of 12 years due to incapacitating injuries. Children are injured almost
routinely. A survey in the Zona da Mata found that 56.7 percent of child and adolescent
respondents had suffered some type of occupational accident. Knife wounds to the arms, hands, and legs, accounted for over 85 percent of the injuries. Repeated injuries to the
limbs eventually causes irreparable damage to workers' ability to move their arms, and
usually ends their cane-cutting careers at a young age.
In addition to accidents, children also suffer from respiratory, dermatological, and
digestive problems; back, leg, and arm pain; headaches from prolonged exposure to the sun;
conjunctivitis; and mental and physical stress from having to meet high production quotas...over 90 percent of the working children and adolescents, and nearly 85 percent of the heads of households, had begun working between the ages of 7 and 13. A
lack of time, a lack of available schools near the plantations, and a perception that what is
taught in the schools is irrelevant, combine to make school attendance impossible.
In 1994 the United States imported $42 million of cane sugar from Brazil." (42)
This excerpt vividly depicts the outright violation of (unenforced) regulations on child labor and America's great dependency upon child labor. The injuries outlined are much like those of child labor in the Gilded Age.
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