Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Child Labour

One of our leading clothing retailers has withdrawn - or maybe has been forced to withdraw - a whole range of its goods because they come from a factory somewhere out east which employs 10-year-olds. When I was in Angola (This was in Huila Province during the civil war), I visited a sort of residential vocational school for youngsters, mostly pre-teen. The problem the school had was that every night, parents would steal into the dorms and take their children away because they needed them to work to help the family economy.
My goodness, no one wants to condone the exploitation of children, or indeed the exploitation of any human being by any other, but when are we going to stop imposing our western standards on the rest of the world? We are at a completely different stage of the game from many other societies, and while we might suggest a GOAL at which others can aim, we have no right, in my anything-but-humble opinion, to expect others to change overnight, whether it's democracy in Iraq, women's rights in Iran or child labour in India. I wonder, too, if anyone stops to ask the children how they feel. Maybe there is more dignity in labour than in begging on the streets.
It is instructive, too, to note that, while we mouth pieties about "ethical foreign policy", ie, we do not deal with nasty despotic regimes like the ones in Burma or North Korea, we have no problem turning a blind eye to one of the Middle East's most vicious autocracies, namely, Saudi Arabia. No prizes for guessing why we are so nice to the Saudis.
Well, that's my splenetic outburst for the week. I am gratified that you managed to get this far. Or did you skip down the page? If so, I don't blame you.

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