Can we close the GAP between clothes production and child labor?
by Emily Kreyling
Do you know that a child or teenager is wearing clothes made by someone their same age? Child labor is present is some of the name brand companies. Child labor is where companies hire or force children to work in the company in unsafe conditions and low if any pay. The companies go through subcontractors, which hire the children. Some companies do not monitor their facilities in which they do not hear about the child labor. American Companies go over seas to India and less successful countries because it is a cheaper way of production. One estimate states that more than 20 per cent of India's economy is dependent on children, the equivalent of 55 million youngsters under 14.1The Government of India acknowledges at least 17.5 million working children, and estimates by various organizations range from 44 million to over 100 million child workers.2
GAP facilities are located in three continents. New Delhi India and El Salvador are the main focus. GAP has 43 facilities in which child labor are happening in.3 GAP hires children from the age of 10 and up. In some pictures, it shows boys as young as 8 years old.4The children wear a little more than under while working in these factories. These children do not go to school and are forced to work. Some families’ sell their children to companies for they can feed the rest of the family.5The children make less than a dollar an hour; others may not get paid.BhuwanRibhu, an activist said "The children are aged eight to 15 and at least three of them have told me already that they were working for no pay at all." 6Gap spokesmen, Bill Chandlersaid,“Under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments.” 7 Bill said this once he found out that his subcontractors were hiring children while the company was not monitoring the facilities. The police had entered the facilities and removed 14 abused children one day and the next they had removed 28. GAP says that the clothes the children had made would never make it to a stores inventory.
Children can work up to a 16-hour day, and go late into the night. Some start at 7 in the morning and don’t leave until midnight or later. The children have to fill the order in order to go home. If a child complains then someone who is monitoring the child’s work will shove an oily cloth into their mouth or could be hit with a rubber pipe. If a child acts up or disrespects someone food will be taken away from what they are being fed. Children can loose money from the pay if they complain too much or are not cooperating with the directions. Some GAP factories do not let children bring anything in with them because they are afraid the children will have something on them that can ruin the clothes they are sewing together.
The children work in very unsafe and unfair conditions. They work for a long period of time with a little lunch break. In some facilities, the children walk home to get lunch, and the other children stay. The children that stay may not get a decent size lunch. Usually their lunch consists of a small bowl of rice and that is it. The children that go home usually cannot afford the bus fee with their paycheck. The ones that do go home usually help their mom out around the house, doing chores they cannot get done. Some facilities house children, where the parents wanted to sell their children because they thought the child will be better off living there. However that is not true because children are poorly treated, and are given the bare necessities. The workroom conditions are dirty and not safe for children to be working in. The children work in over crowded tiny rooms, with very minimum light to work in.The factory may contain hazardous materials, and dangerous gases. Children sew labels into clothing or beads onto little girls’ shirts. The shirts will be sold in the United States of Europe for 20 dollars, in which the children will earn less than a dollar of. GAP earned 1.1 billion dollars in profits last year were made from sweatshop labor in 50 countries around the world. 8
GAP is aware of the child labor in their factories but has been ignoring it. India has rescued some children from the GAP factories; however there are still a lot left working for the store. GAP has not changed their facilites to suit the children working; they are still unsanitary and not safe. The children still are receiving close to no pay. Professor Sheotaj Singh says “It is obvious what the attraction is here for Western conglomerates. The key thing India has to offer the global economy is some of the world's cheapest labor, and this is the saddest thing of all the horrors that arise from Delhi's 15,000 inadequately regulated garment factories, some of which are among the worst sweatshops ever to taint the human conscience.9” Many companies like GAP recognize there is child labor present in their factories producing their products. However none are changing the way their products are being produced. India hopes to keep close monitoring to factories to stop child slave labor and their unfair conditions.