Geographers have a difficult road ahead of them. The irresistable force of Globalization extends its tendrils into all facets of our lives. We are not even safe from the malevolent aspect of globalization when we purchase a soccer ball. That soccer ball may have been sewn together by a child, according to this story by Megha Bahree.
Not only do soccer balls represent a negative aspect of globalization, but so do embroidered jeans, beaded purses, or those little decorative boxes available at many department stores. These products could also, potentially, have been constructed by children.
Child labor is nothing new. Even our society in the United States has involved a fair amount of its own child labor. Talk to anyone who grew up on a farm. Ask them what it was like for them to grow up. They will probably say, “chores!” I know I worked each summer on my grandparent’s farm in Nebraska; and I know that my mother and her brothers worked throughout their childhood on their parent’s farm. Child labor in the U.S. is nothing new.
For some children in the U.S. things are somewhat different. Children, and I should say that the definition of a “child” depends. For some, those people under 13 are consider children. For others, the age might be 14. From other viewpoints, those 18 and under are children. But as I was saying, things for some U.S. children are different. They get paid.
Many farmers pay their labor fairly well. According to Ms. Bahree’s article, some teenagers may make as much as $7/hr. The other difference is where the money is spent. U.S. teenagers are probably not going to use their income to pay for food for their family, or to help pay off family debt. Children in other countries may make $0.20/hr, or perhaps $1-$2/day. This money is then used to help pay for family expenses-food or debt, not for shopping at the mall, buying Miley Cyrus’ new CD.
But is Globalization really that bad?
I argue that Globalization is an amoral force – it doesn’t care, really, one way or the other if children are employed or not. The people behind the force have the responsibility of these decisions, however. Guns don’t kill people, bullets do not kill people – it is the person wielding the tool that decides how the tool is used.
It can be argued that Globalization may be a potential savior for some of these children. The outsourcing of jobs overseas, not only from the U.S. but also from Europe, Mexico (yes, even Mexico outsources), and Japan, can push technology and new jobs and higher wages into new regions. As wages increase, children may be less likely to have to work outside the home. Families won’t feel compelled to “sell” their children’s services to others to help the family survive. The children would then be able to educate themselves, further increasing their income potential.
But all of this occurs slowly, and the distribution of these activities is spotty. However, this is the way of Diffusion. Just like disease outbreaks begin slowly, sometimes in isolated areas, pretty soon, under the correct conditions, the disease begins to thrive.
Globalization may act this way, becoming spatially diffuse, and, unlike an infection, may gradually improve the standards of living of millions of people abroad.