The U.S. Department of Labor has added three products to the list of good produced by forced labor, child labor or both. The list now includes 133 products from 71 countries, ranging from bamboo in Burma to zinc in Bolivia. Added to the list yesterday are bricks in Afghanistan and cassiterite and coltan in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center , more than 200 million children, some as young as five years old are part of the global workforce. In factories and in fields, children work up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. Matches, rugs, soccer balls, leather goods, paper cups, toys, shoes, fireworks—all of these products are made by tiny hands. The center reports:
Child labor is one of the worst forms of exploitation. Child workers are deprived of schooling, forced to work in dangerous situations, beaten and sexually abused, and crippled by work-related illnesses and injuries. Children are sold or indentured to employers who pay impoverished families for the use of their children. An ensuing cycle of poverty pushes adults from their jobs and drives down wages worldwide.
Although most countries have laws against child labor, and it is banned by officially recognized conventions of the United Nations and the International Labor Organization, child labor exists everywhere in the world. Child labor is most common in countries where there are no unions and where other worker rights violations, such as pay inequity, discrimination and lack of health and safety measures, are widespread.
The Solidarity Center and partner organizations push for governments to curb child labor so children can go to school rather than to jobs and their parents can earn decent wages so their children don't have to work.