February 11, 2013

CSR: Child Labour?

The topic of Corporate Social Responsibility, in particular our perceived definition of ‘responsibility’ seems to generate quite a lot of controversy. With respect to child labour, in reference to CSR, it is not arguable that it is morally reprehensible and often formidable. It not only keeps the youth away from education and schools, it also decreases their lifetime opportunities. By reducing the perceived worth of education, especially for young girls, it has corroding impacts on social cohesion. In my belief, there is no justification for child labour. Does a diamond ring not lose its beauty and charm if it is made at the cost of stopping a young child from going to school? While I would not disagree that some initiatives have been taken by governments and authorities as far as this issue is concerned, mainly in the form of speeches, it would be interesting to see some actual measures taken to eliminate (reduce to be on the realistic side) child labour prevalent in countries where much of the population exists at a subsistence level, and the economic and intellectual value of an educated population needs to be realised in order to hope for any positive growth.

Some would argue that many countries fail to offer much hope to an educated youth in terms of employment. This could be one reason behind individuals taking such route to employment at an early age, albeit I firmly believe that education, at least to a basic level, is always an investment; the costs are minor in comparison to the long term benefits. However, the existence of corrupt governments who prevent LEDCs from ever becoming a competitive threat by ensuring their children never receive a formal education sustain the market for child labour. It is similar to economic battery farming; keeping another nation alive with a standard of living only as high enough to be able to produce. Unfortunately, this will not change as long as there are customers for child labour produce and there is a dependence on being able to import cheap goods, although this seems to be a very short term solution, which potentially leads to longer term issue of secondary sector unemployment. These short term goals at the expense of deteriorating innocence and youth exploit more than they could ever provide.

The irony of this world baffles me because we are dismayed when catastrophes befall us, and gaze in awe when once prosperous nations become perished due to corrupt governments and citizens. Such is the tragedy of the world we live in, and we wonder why education is doomed to failure when the real world does not allow dreams to come to fruition. Only when we can afford to, or perhaps are willing to, eschew the economic contributions of these children, both at the importing and exporting fronts of child labour, we will be able to foster the investment in educating this population. Whether such a proposition is likely to be implemented, or "allowed" to be made possible in this case, is questionable.

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