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All Work and No Child's Play


Shakti Kak

REPRESENTING CHILDREN: POWER, POLICY AND THE DISCOURSE ON CHILD LABOUR IN THE FOOTBALL MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY OF PAKISTAN
By Ali Khan
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2007, pp. 221, Rs. 495.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 10 October 2008

The rapid growth in global wealth has failed to eliminate the scourge of child labour. Millions of children between 5 to 17 years of age continue to be engaged in hazardous occupations, agriculture, daily wage work and are victims of trafficking, child prostitution and other highly exploitative forms of labour. The International Labour Organisation has reported that the Asian and the Pacific region still has 122 million working children in the 5-14 age bracket.   Sub-Saharan Africa has an estimated 50 million children engaged in various kinds of economic activities. These children often work long hours and that too in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. Studies have shown that child labour is closely associated with poverty and feeds into multiple survival strategies of the poor. These poor families depend on the economic contribution of a working child to add to the aggregate income of the household. This fact is often cited to justify the cultural bias in favour of child labour amongst some societies and marginalized sectors of population. The neoliberal policies thrust upon the developing countries have led to several adverse measures, including deflationary policies being implemented, which have led to the loss of livelihood and other support structures of the state. The net result of jobless growth, shift of assets and incomes in favour of the rich and increasing inequality in these countries has made the survival strategy of the poor more complex.   The incidence of child labour, particularly in South Asia, in the 21st century reflects the social and economic segmentation of population in small towns and rural areas. Cheap labour be it children, women or adult male is a part of the global restructuring of the production process for cheap goods. The need for ever-increasing profit margins have led to fragmentation and outsourcing of production processes. This makes it possible for the manufacturers to allow and ignore labour abuses. The persistence of child labour in industries like carpet weaving, toy making, embroidery and other home based income generating activities in poor countries is explained by poverty on the one hand and by the need of the producers to keep production costs low so as to be globally competitive. Various international corporations and multinationals obtain cheap manufactured goods by outsourcing these to poor countries. Any outcry about unfair labour standards is contested and silenced through a very efficient public relations exercise. Sophisticated methods are used to avoid labour compliance standards, payment of minimum ...


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