|Outreach No. 96 - Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances - Part 1: Working and Street Children (New York University - TVE - UNEP - WWF, 68 p.)|
Adapted from All Work and No Play: Child Labour Today produced by the Trade Union Congress in collaboration with the UK Committee for UNICEF (1985).
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE
teachers, community workers: As a role-playing exercise to identify some of the main causes of child labour exploitation in poor countries, and as an exercise to explore the role of various interest groups involved in child labour issues. Local government, business groups and parents could be invited to take part in subsequent discussions.
radio and television producers: As a way of introducing local child labour issues. A role-play exercise could use actors to present a hypothetical situation similar to the one outlined below, and then the audience could take part in a subsequent debate about local issues. Alternatively, a real scenario could be presented with government officials, company representatives, parents and working children taking part in a debate.
TASK: Organise a panel discussion to investigate the alleged links between developing country suppliers using child labour and companies in an industrialised country.
- This role playing exercise is based upon a fictitious developing country called Lahuna and an industrialised country called Orland.
- A 30-minute TV documentary has recently been shown which claims that Orland companies are making vast profits from the sweated labour of children in Lahuna. (You may decide to select specific industries to focus on, for example, the clothing industry, shoe manufacturing, carpet manufacturing, etc.).
- The film's allegations have been highlighted in the press in both Orland and Lahuna, and have drawn reactions from trade unions and other interested groups concerned with the issue.
- It is because of this popular interest that the TV company which screened the film has now invited all the major interested parties to take part in a panel discussion before an invited audience.
1. Give one of the five briefs below to each of five groups of no more than four students.
2. Each brief is a stimulus for the group to prepare a much fuller paper for the panel discussion.
3. The groups can use the ideas in the briefs as a framework, but ought to make full use of local, national and international child labour and trade reports and other materials to build up a detailed case. (Read profile no. 6 on Samroeng.)
4. Having completed the research and writing, each group should elect one of its members to role play the part in the panel discussion.
5. Appoint someone to chair the panel discussion. This person is to introduce the discussion by re-capping the main points of the programme and then invite each representative to make an opening statement of no longer than 10 minutes duration.
6. Once the last statement has been made questions can be taken from the audience. The audience could include other 'players' from Lahuna (child workers, their parents and their employers, law enforcers etc.) and from Orland (retailers, workers and consumers, etc.) Child rights advocates (both from Orland and Lahuna) could also be represented.
7. Members of the panel could also be allowed to cross question each other.
8. There should be a summing-up of the main points of the discussion from the chair.
THE ROLE PLAYERS' BRIEFS
1. TV reporter's brief
You are a well-known journalist for one of the popular newspapers who has made a reputation as an investigative journalist. When a major TV company approached you with the Lahuna story, you seized on the project. Despite the fact that you only had a few weeks to do the actual research and filming, and were heavily dependent upon a few local contacts, you feel the programme is a major exposure of the way in which Orland companies profit from child labour in developing countries.
You found that many Orland retail companies have been increasingly importing products manufactured in Lahuna because the country offered one of the largest pools of really cheap labour worldwide. There, women and children work endlessly in sweatshops to produce cheap goods. The imported goods are on sale in Orland, with mark-ups in the region of 300 per cent on the Lahuna price. Profits of the Orland retail companies have soared as a result. You have evidence that one company representative stated: No level of technological change can outweigh the impact of low labour costs, and we will continue to seek low-cost areas and insist on higher margins on imported goods. Another company director complained that Orland workers did not work hard, expected too much, and belonged to unions that were quick to strike if their demands were not met.
2. Trade Union Leader's brief
You are the leader of a trade union which has a direct interest in the revelations of the programme. Your major concern is that cheap suppliers like Lahuna are undercutting Orland products and therefore contributing to the loss of jobs in your industry. You also are shocked to learn that children are virtual slaves, and you feel that international buyers are as guilty of exploiting these workers as the children's bosses. You believe the programme has exposed the retailers' talk about getting the best deal for their customer as a sham. You feel that little has been done by the Trade Union Movement in general on this issue of child labour, and you would like to see a major campaign mounted at both the national and international level to get at the root of the problem.
3. Company Representative brief
You chair the Board of one of the companies accused in the film of profiting from child labour. Nevertheless, you wish to point out that Lahuna only represents a small fraction of your supplies and given the widespread practice of subcontracting, your company cannot be held responsible for the conditions in every single factory. You are now stopping all supplies from Lahuna until a full investigation is carried out. In general, company policy is to do business only with those manufacturers who do not breach their own national labour laws regulating the working conditions of young people standard of living in Lahuna: that population growth has slowed; that GNP has been rising steadily; that the numbers of children enrolled in schools has increased markedly. The rise in standard of living is the only way to alleviate the problems such as child labour. Any attempt to reduce trade with developing countries would worsen rather than improve the standard of living. You feel there were inaccuracies in the film due to language difficulties and the short period of research and filming.
4. Lahuna Government Representative's brief
You are Lahuna's ambassador to Orland. For many years now you feel that Lahuna has been singled out by the international media for these kinds of sensational accounts. It is as if Lahuna were the only example of child labour abuse. You wish to point out your government's positive record on child labour legislation, and its development efforts to reduce the migration of poor families from rural areas into urban slums. You draw attention to the government's accomplishments in recent years to raise the standard of living in Lahuna: that population growth has slowed; that GNP has been rising steadily; that the numbers of children enrolled in schools has increased markedly. The rise in standard of living is the only way to alleviate the problems such as child labour. Any attempt to reduce trade with developing countries would worsen rather than improve the standard of living. You feel there were inaccuracies in the film due to language difficulties and the short period of research and filming.
5. Child Employer's brief
You own the factory which was featured in the TV programme. You started selling to Orland about a decade ago, and business has been constantly expanding ever since. You would use adult workers if you could, but to remain competitive with other manufacturers in Lahuna and in other countries, you have to employ the cheapest labour. You admit conditions in the factory are not good, and child workers work long hours and are paid half the official Lahuna minimum wage. You employ poor, uneducated children from remote farming regions rather than streetwise city children because the former are not afraid of hard work, and they do not complain. You outlay many wages in advance in order to encourage the village workers to come to the city to work, and you point out that by doing so, you are helping their farming families to survive and enable them to pay off debts. You wonder what is wrong with children working; it's a tradition and they need whatever money they can make.
You emphasise that the real profits are made by the middle men and the retail companies in Orland. You are paid a cheap price for the goods which are sold for several times that amount in Orland, and you have expenses - wages, material costs, equipment, food for the workers, etc. You somewhat resent being criticised by people in Orland for your employment practices: after all it is Orland companies which are trying to circumvent over 150 years of Orland social legislation, and customers in Orland would complain if the price of the products rose.