Cultural Relativism and Child Labor

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Cultural Relativism and Child Labor

Child Labor
The use of child labor in developing nations is not a moral issue, it is a cultural one. International corporations should not let the moral argument or current legislation such as the Child Labor Deterrence Act (CLDA) influence how and where they conduct operations. Grounded in what appears as legitimate concern for children, proposed legislation such as the CLDA hinder the potential growth and progress of developing nations by limiting the number of corporations who are willing to set up operations within developing countries. The fallacy with CLDA and similar legislation is that they based on a one-sided moral perspective that inhibits change in developing countries by preventing economic growth rather than promoting it.

The use of child labor should be approached from a culturally relevant viewpoint so that legislation can be passed to protect child laborers in both established and developing industries in developing countries rather that preventing international corporations from setting up operations for fear of possible legal repercussions or damage to their reputation. International corporations are in a position to promote growth, provide sustainable employment, and foster an environment where changes in cultural perspectives and thinking are possible rather than preventing commerce which in turn prolongs development process of the county and ensures the use of child labor indefinitely.

Utilization of child labor is not a new phenomenon. All of the developed nations in the world including Britain and the United States (US) at one time relied on the use of child labor during their industrialization phases to develop industries and grow their economies to a point where child labor was eventually curtailed and began to decline due to a wider distribution of wealth and leveling between the socioeconomic strata’s. The cessation of child labor coincided with the opportunity for families to be able to send their children to school because they could afford it in addition to support from social programs such as taxation to fund school systems. Less than a hundred years ago in the US it was commonplace to see children working in factories, shops, and fields. It was also common for thirteen to fifteen year old girls to be wed to men in their twenties. In order to fully understand the issue of child labor context is needed to achieve perspective so that the morality of the issue is not already established. Morality is not standard; it is different for every individual and every culture. Morality is determined by dialogue where people reach a common consensus. What is lacking in the child labor debate is a culturally relevant moral dialogue to establish the best way a developing nation can reduce its dependence on child labor.

Currently, the International Labour Organization (ILO) cited in Edmonds (2009) states “(t)hat there are an estimated 191 million economically active children ages 5 to 14 in the world today” (pp. 174). Of those 191 million children most of them are working at their parent’s side helping with the family business. In 2000, a United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) project conducted a survey of working children in 36 countries which compiled data on more than 120 million children between the ages of 5 to 14. The data revealed that approximately 70 percent of all the children include in the survey spend some time devoted to economic activity or chores that less than 3 percent of the children work in the “formal” wage market such as the textile industry or commercial farming outside of the family farm (Edmonds, 2009, p. 174).

Cultural relativism is an anthropological viewpoint that proposes that no culture is superior to any other when systems of law, morality, politics, et cetera are compared to those of another culture. The philosophical notion is that a single cultures cultural beliefs are valid because they are relative to that culture and...
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