No sweatshop rhetoric here–Jordanian dialogue about working children

You can’t help but love the Jordanians. When they have a problem what do they do? Drink tea. It’s not as weird as it may seem.

In the west, we march, we denounce, we demand, we ridicule, we do all kinds of things that end up polarizing people and putting people into opposing camps so they can’t talk to each other, but can only defend more and more entrenched positions. Then we pass some laws. The ones whose ideas weren’t included in the law have to follow the law anyhow no matter how unhappy they are.

The Jordanians drink tea. They begin by enjoying life, then they start to talk, to explore each others’ needs, to reach consensus.

So when Jordanians decided to tackle the problem of child labor, they started by recognizing that children do work and that the laws against child labor are widely ignored. Then they sat down and just talked. I feel fairly confident in stating they probably also drank tea. At the end of it, they had a document that some businesses were willing to sign about how, not if, children would be used in the labor force.

The products offered on my webspace are all sweatshop free. If a product’s sourcing changes or cannot be documented, I remove the product. But I will also continue to watch how the Jordanians approach the subject of child labor.

The following is from The Jordan Times 7-5-07. Articles remain online for one week.

Code of conduct on working children launched

AMMAN (JT) — A code of conduct designed to regulate and better address the working conditions of children in the country was launched this week.Various government entities, businesses, civil society organisations signed the code, which was formulated after extensive meetings and discussions on the need to provide working children with improved protection and awareness.The code of conduct, developed as part of activities of the ILO’s International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour was launched in a ceremony at the Chamber of Industry.The code will present employers with clear guidelines on what is expected of them in the workplace, so that they adhere to ILO conventions and recommendations on working children and will adopt these codes.The code pinpoints areas of concern, such as health, safety hazards and long working hours.

Thousands of children across the country presently work long hours in dangerous and unhealthy environments.

According to the law, children between 16 -18 years of age are not permitted to work more than a six-hour day, with employers liable to a JD500 fine if caught in violation.

In reality, hundreds of children work more than 12 hours a day with little enforcement of regulations.

According to a recent Ministry of Labour study, 13 per cent of working children in the country are subjected to forced labour, with over 16 per cent earning a meagre JD10-50 a month.

Most of the children surveyed were found to be school dropouts aged between 9-17 and working an average of a 60-65 hour week to help supplement their families’ income.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


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