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Child Slave Labor in Wal-Mart

by Derek Knapp
November 2005

Child slave labor is a real problem in our world today. Corporations are using children for cheap labor so the top CEOs of the company can get even richer. Wal-Mart is one of today's biggest corporations, with more than 500 stores located just throughout the United States. Wal-Mart is not just growing rapidly in the United States. In other countries such as China and Bangladesh, Wal-Mart has been making factories at a constant pace in these two countries.

In Bangladesh women and children are forced to work about 14 hours a day, often seven days a week for wages as low as around 13 cents an hour. These extremely low wages just keep the women and children right on the poverty line, and leave them no way to get above it. The workers are paid just 10 cents for every Wal-Mart shirt that they sew. Garment factories, where Wal-Mart clothes are manufactured, just around 90 percent of around 3,780 export garment factories do not follow women's legal right to three months maternity leave with full pay.

One Wal-Mart contractor called Beximco was caught by the National Labor Committee, paying teenage seamstresses an hourly rate of 12p and their helpers 5p. This also made them work for 80 hours a week. These wages are just about half of Bangladesh's minimum wage. The 80 hour work week also goes higher than what is allowed by law. Bangladesh's work week is a maximum of 60 hours.

Wal-Mart says that they never know if workers are being abused but they said that they certainly wouldn't allow it. It has a zero-tolerance policy towards forced labor and child slavery, and tries to keep an average of 200 inspections at its factories every week to ensure they obey the code of basic labor standards. "Wal-Mart's internal audit in 2000 pointed to extensive child labor violations." It is said in some reports that children are being forced to sleep on the factory floors due to the extreme working hours and conditions. One week of time records from 25,000 employees in July 2000 found 1,371 times when minors worked too late, during school hours, or for too many hours in a day. There were 60,767 missed breaks and 15,705 lost meal times. "We still suffer from the legacy of the colonial days," said one factory owner, Muhammad Saidur Rehman. "We consider the workers to be our slaves, and this belief is made all the easier by a supply of labor that is endlessly abundant." Wal-Mart goes to great lengths to monitor factories around the world and eradicate labor abuses, Bill Wertz said. "We are continually trying to eliminate these kinds of violations, but, unfortunately, we're unable to succeed 100 percent of the time," he said. This quote proves that there is child slave labor in Bangladesh. The problem seems to be a problem that cannot be stopped by fines that corporations could pay of with ease. There needs to be a better way to stop this crime that is going on all throughout the world.

China is where the largest amount of Wal-Mart sweatshops are located. China's labor law states that overtime cannot go over 36 hours a month, or 9 hours a week over the regular 40 hour, 5 day work week. Average pay in China's "Special Economic Zones" is just about three cents an hour. At the end of usual 18 hour work days, the workers are lead single file to dorm rooms packed with 16 metal bunks. They are then locked in, no way to escape. Many children die from diseases, and lack of nutrition in these factories that in a way resemble the work camps that were used in World War II by the Nazis and Hitler.

China is committed to ending child labor. According to the International Labor Organization, China has ratified two ILO conventions on labor practices. Convention 138 forbids minors under 15 from working. Convention 182 bans the worst forms of child labor. These forms of child labor include prostitution and slave labor. Although laws have been instituted in China, it seems that they are not being abiding by factory owners.

Wal-Mart does 32 billion dollars a year. The average full-time Wal-Mart associate makes $17,114 per year in America . This amount is well below the poverty line. In other countries, people could sometimes make a total of ten dollars a day. There is no way that these men, women, and children can live on that.

A recent study also proved that there has to be slave labor in Wal-Mart. The researchers proved this by going overseas into Bangladesh and seeing just have much it costs to make a denim shirt, labor and materials included. The total cost to make the shirt turned out to be $3.72. Wal-Mart then sells this shirt for $11.67. Wal-Mart then makes a profit of $8.42, which is a 260% mark up of the actual cost to make the shirt. This research proves two things: It proves that there is slave labor in Wal-Mart due to the fact that the shirt can be made for only $3.72 including labor (Denim). It also proves that if Wal-Mart paid just a measly 20 more cents to make the garment, the workers could go just above the misery line and maybe even reach the poverty line.

Child slave labor, without a doubt, exist in the world today. Many corporations, including Wal-Mart, are taking advantage of poverty stricken people and paying them just enough to survive barely, while the CEOs make out with hundreds of thousands dollars a week. The amount of money that these indentured servants get paid is ridiculous, something needs to be done. The main reason that child slave labor exists, is because of greed. If the owner of a company decides to give even just a few more cents to his workers, it would help them out a whole lot. In conclusion, child slave labor is everywhere and is not leaving just yet.

Sources Used:


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Immaculata Child Slave Labor News
Immaculata High School, Somerville, NJ

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