Child Labour: Is Boycotting the Answer?

Essay by swonder911High School, 10th gradeA+, June 2004

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In the world today, especially third world and developing nations, child labour is a major problem. It involves the exploitation of children, forcing them to work in unsafe, unsanitary conditions, often for appallingly low wages. Many people are trying to stop child labour, but that is not an easy task. So, is boycotting the answer? To put it simply, no.

To boycott a product is to refrain from purchasing it. Often, boycotts are preformed in groups. The larger the group, often the more effective the boycott. However, shutting down a company because it is suspected of using child labour is not as simple as it first seems. First, it is often hard to prove conclusively that a company is actually taking part in using child labour. For example, many people suspect Nike of using child labour. Nike, on the other hand, maintains that it "...has zero tolerance for child labour." Their website goes on to say that "Nike backs that pledge with enforcement...that includes independent monitoring, the factory presence of Nike employees, and standard identification procedures to assure all contractors are preventing the hiring of workers below the minimum age [16]. No large amounts of proof have been recently presented to back up either side of that argument.

Next, imagine what would happen if a company WAS shut down because it was using child labour. All the children would suddenly be out of work. Often, they would be worse off than before. Some would simply be hired by another factory using child labour. Others might not be able to find work at all, and their families might not be able to buy the absolute essentials, such as food, since the little money the children were bringing home would now not exist.

Finally, imagine if EVERY company using child labour was successfully boycotted. There would be an end to child labour, but there would be problems even worse than before. Modern society would see an economic collapse, as thousands of legitimate workers here were laid off because their company was shut down. There would probably not be enough eligible adult workers to fill the sudden void. People would see major raises in price in a wide range of products, perhaps not allowing some people to buy the essentials they could once afford. Things would take many, many years to stabilize.

In conclusion, child labour is a complex problem, which requires a complex solution. Boycotting is not the solution, and it appears finding the right one could still be many years into the future. I am confident there will be a stop to child labour, however. The question is not if, but when and how.