This video looks at working conditions in China. I think most of us are aware that pirate capitalism is rampant in much of the world, as indeed it used to be in the West in the early days of the industrial revolution. For the most part, in the West, we have eliminated these practices from our local factories. However, many companies get around these rules by manufacturing their products where the labour is much, much cheaper, and where the rules to protect them are simply not enforced. 22 hour working day anyone?

In the film, the Disney corporation is singled out. However, many other companies are known to be doing the same thing. Apple, for example, is reported to have admitted to using child labour. Abercrombie & Fitch have been criticised for conditions in the Phillipines, and for lack of transparency about their practices. This document talks about many other companies including Gap, Banana Republic, Nike and others better known in the USA than in the UK.

You can find a lot of information from the IHS Child Slave Labour News website, if you’re interested.

But what can we do about it? If we don’t buy their goods, these people will be out of work… maybe. Or maybe boycotting such companies will gradually push them in the direction of improving their practices… and, unfortunately, increasing prices. Another problem is that it seems these days rather hard to find any products that are not made by third-world or Chinese slaves (I include very-low-paid workers with inhumane working conditions in this category). But we don’t need most of what we buy anyway, do we? We don’t need to change our wardrobe every season. We don’t need to buy crap that falls to pieces in next to no time at all, deliberately to encourage us to buy a replacement. We can buy reliable, durable goods in the first place. And we can distinguish between ‘need’ and ‘want’. Can’t we?

Santa’s Workshop [33m]

Is there anything else we can do about it, other than shopping more responsibly? I’m looking around online as I write this to see what I can find. AntiSlavery.org has a few suggestions (including signing up to give them some money, of course). Mainly they want people to join their campaigns or ‘like’ them in their social networks. They have a 2m30s video here:

I think for those of us who don’t have much money, donating is not very interesting; for those of us who don’t want to be campaigning, or don’t have the time, that’s not much use either… I know the idea is to build up a critical mass of people to force governments to do a bit more, but clearly they aren’t close to it just yet. On the other hand, there are petitions, and suggestions of how to annoy various retail chains by writing to them with awkward questions. This may be a bit easier. And maybe a bit of fun too…

The Products of Slavery site has a nice interactive map showing the variety of products made through forced labour around the world. You can click on it to get more details for each country.

They generally recommend purchasing “fairtrade” products preferentially. Well, OK, but such products are usually more expensive… and the drive to cheapness is part of what has led the world to produce in this way anyway.

Historically, slavery was abolished in much of the world as part of a complex series of events, discussed on the International Socialst Group’s website (naturally, they have a particular perspective on the issue… but who doesn’t?).

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