THE CHILD LABOR QUESTION AND OTHER SAD STORIES


Within the framework of La Salle University, the "Environmental Management and Control" seminar was held for a group of scholars from the University of Quindío, Colombia.

The objectives were:

• Analyze the theoretical bases of the sustainability sciences.

• Arguing the reasons that justify sustainable behavior.

• Professionally apply the fundamental concepts in sustainability.

• Identify corporate social responsibility



The concept of sustainability emerges, to define an alternative for humanity, from the so-called "Ecodevelopment", that is, the consideration of "the economic" and "environmental" by society.

For this, it is essential to understand "The Paradox of Technology, Wealth and Poverty", that is, how should our society act and act to achieve sustainability in a population, community, entity?

How to do to have a sustainable social and economic development?

These questions require endless studies on how society acquires its benefits, without harming society itself and the environment.

With the intention of answering these questions, PwC, gave us his study "Towards a Fourth Basic Financial Statement" that is worth reviewing and understanding.


The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that over 250 million children are employed throughout the world, with ages ranging from four to fourteen. A large percentage of these children are employed full-time and do not attend school.


Child laborers can be found in large numbers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One country known for its child labor is Pakistan. In Pakistan, carpet master, Sadique, recruits boys ages seven to ten to weave his carpets. Sadique states: “They make ideal employees. Boys at this stage of development are at the peak of their dexterity and endurance, and they’re wonderfully obedient” The carpet master can hire a child for about one fourth the cost of an adult carpet weaver.

Critics of child labor, which includes many international organizations, argue that these children are exploited by their employers, forced to work long hours in poor and dangerous conditions, and are deprived of an opportunity for a better life.


They argue that a universal standard should be agreed to by all 291 nations that ensures that no child will be subjected to full-time employment before the age of fourteen.

Others argue that while child labor is never a country’s first choice, it is necessary for the survival of some less developed countries. Critics of international standards argue that what is unethical in one country may not be unethical in another.



This relativist perspective maintains that child labor standards cannot be applied globally because the economies of the world are not equal. While prosperous countries can afford to keep children in school for a long time, it is necessary that children work in poorer countries. They point out that rich countries today, such as the United States, had children working during their less prosperous times. It is further argued that without employment, many of these children would be homeless and subject to even greater exploitation on the streets. The families of the working children depend on them in many cases for money for food. The question is not education or work, but rather, work or starvation.


THE GLOBAL PROBLEM OF E-WASTE

A growing problem in the developed economies of the world is what to do with outdated or unusable electronic equipment. Electronic waste, or e-waste, is created when people discard old computers, monitors, printers, televisions, and other electrical equipment. E-waste contains hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Public landfills generally prohibit the disposal of such hazardous materials due to the potential to cause harmful environmental conditions. Toxic chemicals from the discarded e-waste can seep into underground water and contaminate drinking supplies. With millions of electronic devices such as old computers, cell phones and television monitors, discarded each year in the United States alone, a strong need exists to find a place for these potentially harmful devices.


Computer recycling requires that low wage employees disassemble old computers by extracting the valuable and working parts for reassembly.


The so-called “white box” computers are reassembled computers that are sold in developing countries at a much lower price than new ones. By reusing existing computer parts, resources are saved and consumers who might not otherwise be able to afford a computer can purchase one.


Given the labor cost differences between the United States and third world emerging countries, much of the e-waste from the U.S. is shipped to India and China where the cost of recycling is one-tenth the cost of the United States. Unfortunately, the low cost comes at a high price.


Safety regulations and worker protection are generally not available in these countries. Workers in the major recycling centers of Guiyu, China and Delhi, India report health-related issues such as respiratory problems and skin irritations. In addition to removing usable parts from old computers, the recycling industry literally burns circuit boards in order to recover valuable silver and gold used in their manufacture.



Wiring is dipped into acid vats to remove the plastic covering to salvage the commodity value of the wire. Much of the work is done by women and children from the rural areas, who come to seek work in the cities of China and India. Both of these groups are especially vulnerable to the hazards of toxic substances such as lead. Lead, found in computer monitors and televisions in heavy concentrations can cause led poisoning in children and often harms an unborn fetus. Compensation for such toxic work is low. Given other employment opportunities, few people would choose to do such work; however, it is often not an option for these workers.

Disposal of e-waste is a lucrative business in the United States, and is expected to increase with even more electronic products being sold each year. In addition, the move to a completely digital television broadcast will produce large quantities of unusable analog sets which will become e-waste. While an old television may be nearly worthless in the United States, a 40 foot container filled with e-waste is worth approximately $5,000 in Hong Kong, the preferred port of entry for such disposables. In order to sell e-waste abroad, U.S. companies must get Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval, and the approval of the receiving country before legally shipping their cargo.



Enforcement of EPA regulations is, however, is difficult. According to one source, “ninety percent of electronics recyclers are cheaters.” The United States is one of the few countries in the world that has not ratified the Basel Convention (Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste) which regulates the movement of hazardous materials, especially from developed to less developed countries.

One proposed solution to the problem is to require electronics manufacturers or retailers to charge a disposal fee at the time of purchase to cover the cost of safely disposing of the product at the end of its usefulness. Or similarly, a recycling fee could be assessed and refunded when the device is returned. As commodity prices drop globally, there is increased pressure to reduce the cost of processing e-waste to extract the precious metals and other components. With an overflowing stock of old computer monitors and other electronic devices in developed countries and a growing population in developing countries needing employment, the hazardous work of recycling is expected to continue to grow.


REFLECTIONS:

1. Who do you feel is most responsible (consumers, manufacturers, American recyclers, foreign governments) for the e-waste problem?

2. Is it fair for rich countries to dump their e-waste in poor countries?



44 vistas