How is forced child labor in China supported by the United States?

2667 words (11 pages) Essay

18th May 2020 Human Rights Reference this

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Child labor work in China

How is forced child labor in China supported by the United States and could it be stopped without affecting the economy?

 The United States exports only around $7 billion worth of goods and imports over 4 times that amount being roughly $29 billion from China. Many of the items made in China are produced by child laborers, in which children are being denied their right to safety and security and essentially being held as slaves. Children in these conditions are also extremely overworked, even for adults of any age the extent of work done is insane “the underage migrants work at least 28 days a month from 7 a.m. to midnight” (Yiming, Gou). Some items commonly produced by child labor workers are: shoes, soap, sugar, carpets, diamonds and gold, cocoa, cotton and clothing, coffee, tobacco, cattle, bricks, rice, coal, and many more. It’s important to put an end to child labor however with the U.S being as dependent as it is on Chinese merchandise it may be more difficult then it seems. 

Topic overview

 “Children forced to work 28 days a month, don’t get paid until end of year and are beaten when they misbehave” (Zuo, Mandy). This is not right, no one deserves to be put through twenty eight agonizing days a month only to receive a measly pay at the end of an entire year. Not to mention them being beaten is downright abuse and shouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstance. Kids should enjoy their childhood and not be thrown in the world of hard labor so early on. All children should be able to experience being a kid and shouldn’t be put through the stress of finances and work till they are older.

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Child labor has been taking place in China for centuries and at this day and age it is time to put a stop to it. Children (typically ages sixteen and younger) are often forced into back breaking work and being paid next to nothing. Large businesses, industries, and manufacturing corporations often use child labor as a way to save money and increase production rates. Since 27.2% of people living in China are in poverty, children in this situation are more likely to accept a job despite the conditions and pay rate. Often times parents or family of these children ask them to accept these jobs in hopes to have a bit more money to support themselves. “These supply and demand factors are reinforced by systemic, structural issues such as lack of access to education, inadequate employment opportunities for the educated, corruption and social stratification” (Products Made by Child Labor – with Alternative Options) because of these issues of lack of education and employment opportunities it makes eliminating the use of child labor more complicated. 

The imports brought in by the United States are roughly 15% from China which isn’t much; however, 90% of these imports are produced through forced labor and almost half (41%) are made by children. It’s estimated there are 62.1 million children doing forced labor in China with around 73% working in hazardous conditions. “The top export destinations of China are the United States ($476B), Hong Kong ($255B), Japan ($157B), Germany ($109B) and South Korea ($98.1B)” (Simoes, Alexander), because the United States is Chinas biggest export location that means the U.S is a large support platform for forced child labor.

Impacts and consequences

“Today, more than a quarter of the world’s slaves are children. These children are forced to commit commercial sex acts, forced into a system of domestic servitude or employed in occupations that are mentally, physically, socially and morally harmful” (Child Labor | Enslavement of Children). Because of the high levels of corruption and poverty forced child labor has continued to go on.  Children should never be put in these conditions no matter their wealth or any other circumstance. The way these children are being treated violates article (3) of the UDHR “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 3) since these children definitely do not have security. They are also being denied right number (4) of the UDHR “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 4). The way these children are kept and forced to work is slavery and they should not be treated in this way.

Children are often made to do hazardous work such as mining, agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. “Because their bodies and minds are still developing, children are more vulnerable than adults to workplace hazards, and the consequences of hazardous work are often more devastating and lasting for them” (Hazardous Child Labour (IPEC). The work these children are forced into is not intended for such small fragile people to be doing. Because children just shouldn’t be doing this type of work it has left many injured and dead “Worldwide, the ILO estimates that some 22,000 children are killed at work every year. The numbers of those injured or made ill because of their work are not known” (Hazardous Child Labour (IPEC). This shouldn’t be happening, children should not be forced to do work that puts them in harm’s way.

The more the United States imports from China, the more China has to continue to produce bountiful cheap goods. It’s supply and demand; the more people purchase and demand something, the more the producer has to supply and so forth. However, if the United States where to stop buying from China it could potentially affect our economy. The price of most goods previously imported from China would go up and as stated earlier that’s a long list of items. With most items going up in price United States citizens would have to pay more which could effectively have an outcome of increased poverty in the United States as well as a lower GDP rate. “Goods or services that satisfy domestic needs or wants can be produced more inexpensively or efficiently by other countries, and therefore sold at lower prices” (Why Do Nations Import?), because the United States is not self sufficient and heavily relies on China to get goods at a lower price, stopping trade with China could in the long run have detrimental effects.

Current actions 

“A U.S. law banning slave-made imports has netted only $6.3 million worth of goods from artificial sweetener to garlic in three years, activists and lawmakers said, urging the government to ramp up its efforts in the global drive to stop forced labor” (Fields, Jason). The United states placed a law as of 2016 banning suspicions, possibly slave made, goods. So far $400 billion worth of goods have bean confiscated each year. This ban was put in place to grant Americans more job opportunities so though the ban is good, it’s in place for selfish reasons. The United States should have prioritized the safety, wellbeing, and the violations of rights these children are encountering and not the few Americans who couldn’t get jobs. This being said the ban is not entirely effective, the way the shipments get confiscated is if they look suspicious. There are no United States investigators or officials in China investigating the source of the imports, meaning many that are passing over may still be produced by child slaves. “CBP’s forced labor division is massively understaffed and underfunded, limited in scope and power, and has issued just seven detention orders since 2016” (Fields, Jason), the lack of funding for this ban has caused it to barely be enforced meaning this solution isn’t working as it should be.

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  In China there are laws against child labor “The child labor laws in China forbid employers in the country from employing people considered to be minors” (Child Labor Laws in China), minors in China are stated to be the age of 16 and younger. Though these laws are in place they are not heavily enforced, and corporations often get around them. There are Chinese investigators set on taking down child labor rings; however, “No cases of child labour found by the labour inspectorate have been reported to the ILO” (Child Labour in China and Mongolia (ILO in China and Mongolia).The fact that no cases of child labor have been reported despite there being investigators and enforcement officers seems to be quite suspicious. 

 “President Trump escalated his trade war with China on Friday morning, raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and taking steps to tax nearly all of China’s imports as punishment for what he said was Beijing’s attempt to “renegotiate” a trade deal” (Swanson, Ana, and Alan Rappeport). Though Donald Trump’s trade war with China is not to with child labor it could potently help. By importing less and taxing China higher on goods it would decrease the overall product’s coming in from China and as a whole decrease the demand. If there is less demand there will be less supply meaning Chinese factories may start to stop using child slaves as much since there will be less of a need for cheap and plentiful products. Though this may decrease child labor it won’t eliminate it and truthfully there’s no way to say all this is doing anything.

Proposed actions                                                     One thing that could be done is to send United States investigators into China and inspect manufacturing facilities in attempts to remove all child labor rings in China. These people would be government funded and trust worthy individuals. The United States uses most tax money on government warfare “54 percent” to be exact, “a total of $598.5 billion” (Military Spending in the United States). If the United States set aside a measly 1% of this to go into stopping child labor the military would be just as over powered and it could potentially save millions of children who are put through torment every single day.

 Another thing that could be done by the Chinese government is pass harsher laws enforced by long jail time and fines being paid to families involved. If there where more intense heavily enforced laws in place factory and corporation leaders might be more cautious about the conditions they keep their workers in. With the looming threat of prison time and huge financial losses people involved in child labor might start to reconsider their fast-inexpensive way of making business.

 Lastly something China could try is investing in better education for all it’s citizens. If people were better educated families could have more ways of making money, then to force their children into torturous work. “Poverty leads these children to accept the job, or their parents ask them to work to supplement the family income” (Child Labor | Enslavement of Children), if there is less poverty there would be less children willing to waste away in sweat shops. Because education is a main factor in China effecting the poverty rate investing more into education would definitely help.

Conclusion             Child labor in China is a big issue and has been an occurrence for centuries but there are finally some actions being taken to put a stop to it. Children forced into child labor are being denied their human rights, both article 3 and 4 of the UDHR, and are treated in horrendous ways. Though the United States self-centered ban on importing products made by forced labor might have helped there is still not enough being done. In order to fully end this issue both the United States and China must work together by implementing laws and investing into attacking the problem head on. Perhaps one day this issue won’t be around but for now there’s still children being hurt and killed because companies want to save a little extra money.

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