Saturday, August 09, 2008

Child labor in sugar cane fields

Concerns about child labor in the sugar cane fields of El Salvador is not a new story. A Human Rights Watch report from 2004 brought th issue into sharp focus and attracted world attention to the issue. Human Rights Watch returned to El Salvador in 2006 and reported that

By 2005, in contrast, we heard of only a few children involved in the cutting and planting of sugar cane. Following the release of our report, the government and the sugar industry began to enforce El Salvador’s child labor laws. Unfortunately, they have not put in place adequate alternatives. When we visited in 2005, they had essentially fired all of the child laborers without ensuring they would be able to attend school or benefit from alternative vocational training.
Still, poor families in rural areas occasionaly find that their economic circumstances drive them to have children help them in the cane fields. An activist with a video camera can still find children in the cane fields as seen in this 2007 video from Mark Thomas. (the section on El Salvador starts at 1:37 into the video). A bibliography of articles on this issue can be found in the paper Forced Child Labor in El Salvador: Contemporary Economic Servitude.

In this November 2007 letter, El Salvador's sugar cane industry defends its efforts to reduce the child labor in their fields.

The story of El Salvador's child sugar cane workers is another example showing that passing laws against child labor is not enough, if you don't also address the challenges of poverty and lack of economic and educational opportunity for the children of families who work in the fields.

4 comments:

El-Visitador said...

«if you don't also address the challenges of poverty and lack of economic and educational opportunity for the children of families who work in the fields»

Isn't this the whole point of the "Fondo Solidario" and the School Food Program? Bribe families a few dollars a month for each child they send to school and provide meals to kids who attend.

It seems the govm't is, since only a few short years ago, doing exactly what your article calls for.

Yet I seem to recall we've talked before about a certain opposition party which has fought these policies tooth and nail, every step of the way.

- * -

The U.S. and the Euroweenies are enormously hypocritical by ramming down our throats that we forbid kids from working. There will always be desperate families where even if the government were to offer a bribe of $75/month for a kid to go to school, the family would opt for sending the kid to work.

Why? An ill parent, an ill brother or sister who needs expensive treatment, whatever.

When the U.S and Europe were poorer, they let families sort it out: as recently as 70 years ago, millions of working kids were the salvation of their own families.

Most Europeans and gringos are alive today because their kid grandparents or kid grand-grandparents worked, kept their families together or saved from starvation.

Yet now our desperate poor are prohibited from working, and must work illegally or off-the-books if necessary in their own country. Making criminals of the young and poor.

Nice job.

Alex said...

Mr. Tim,

I have been a loyal reader of you blog since a while ago, to the point of being inspired by your dedication and having decided to create my own blog: Almuerzo Gratis (Free Lunch)

http://almuerzogratis.blogspot.com/

I invite you to visit it, and if you like it, to add a link on your blog.

Thank you

penchenk said...

good discription

Larry said...

"When the U.S and Europe were poorer, they let families sort it out: as recently as 70 years ago, millions of working kids were the salvation of their own families."

And the U.S. and European countries rose out of poverty as unions organized workers and helped outlaw child labor. Yes, child labor is a result of poverty. But it is also a cause. The CYCLE must be broken. Eliminating child labor is not the complete solution. But it is a necessary part of the solution.