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Gender Wage Gap in Brazil
Despite having the same legal rights as men, Brazilian women continue to fight for equality in the workplace. The gender wage gap in Brazil is one of the largest in Latin America, and women earn an average of 30% less than men.

Today, societal norms and the lack of gender representation in Congress contribute to this gap. As a result, the pay gap affects minority women the most and they earn approximately half the wage of the average white man. Despite the pay gap between women and men, Brazil has made advances toward gender equality in the past few decades.

Gender Inequality in Brazil

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 78% of men hold jobs in comparison to 56% of women in Brazil. Yet, the majority of women in the survey said that they would prefer a paid job to staying at home.

In Brazil, most women have access to the same educational opportunities as men. However, their degree does not necessarily translate into a higher salary. For example, women account for more than 60% of the workforce with college degrees. However, they receive 36% less pay than men with college degrees. Therefore, the gender wage gap in Brazil impacts women of all educational and economic backgrounds.

The Issue

Traditionally, Brazilian culture expects women to stay at home while men support the family. As a result, women who break cultural norms by working outside the home find it difficult to establish successful careers. Though women make up roughly half of the workforce in Brazil, only 16% of companies have a female CEO and less than 20% of women hold middle management positions. These statistics illustrate Brazil’s well-established social hierarchy where women rank second to men.

Women’s underrepresentation in Congress also allows men to hold the majority of political power within the Brazilian government. Women held fewer than 15% of Congressional seats until 2018. The male-dominated Congress failed to pass legislation that would address the gender wage gap in Brazil. Even though women have held 30% of Congressional seats following the 2018 election, women still experience stigma for challenging cultural norms.

How the Gender Wage Gap Affects Minorities

Afro-Brazilian women suffer the most from the lack of female representation in Congress. There are few government officials to represent their best interests. The average income for Afro-Brazilian women is $2.50 per hour. The average income for white women is $4.02 per hour. These salaries compare to the average for white men, which is $5 per hour.

The gender wage gap in Brazil affects women of all socio-economic backgrounds. In 2015, Afro-Brazilians made up 76% of the lower class, and only 17% was among the country’s richest 1%. Even more, minority women with secondary education earn less than their white counterparts with the same qualifications, showing how the wage gap adversely affects minority women.

The Progress

Local organizations are actively working within the Brazilian community to bridge the gender wage gap. For example, the Associação the Comunitária dos Moradores de Mandassaia (Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia) promotes gender equality by empowering women in the small town of Mandassaia, Brazil.

Mandassaia is a rural town where job opportunities are scarce. Typically, Mandassaia women work in sugar cane fields or stay home to raise their children. In 2017, the Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia partnered with the National School Feeding Program to help a small group of women profit off of Mandassaia’s sugar cane production. The Program teaches women cake baking and jam production so they can make money selling baked goods. Through the Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia, these women were able to increase their income by 425% and earn a livable wage.

Mandassaia’s bakers now have a community farming seal, which allows them to expand their business and provide more job opportunities for women. By helping women become financially independent in local communities, the Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia is reducing the wage gap in Brazil.

Looking Ahead

The pay gap has decreased over the last few decades, and the Brazilian government is participating in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to achieve equal pay by 2030. The Brazilian government has also agreed to work toward reducing gender inequality in the workforce by 25% by 2025. Although Brazil continues to struggle with bridging the wage gap in the workplace, the efforts of the Brazilian government and community to eliminate gender inequality represent an encouraging step forward.

Abby Adu
Photo: Flickr

Job Shortage in IraqGetting a college degree in Iraq doesn’t mean that you have a guaranteed job in your field after graduating, let alone a job in any field. The job shortage in Iraq has led to an increase in poverty and has destroyed the dreams of many graduates. This job shortage is an ongoing conflict that impacts the goals of the young generations in Iraq. According to the World Bank, 22% of men and almost 64% of women between 15-24 years are unemployed in Iraq.

Iraq’s Economy

With billions going yearly to its public service, the nation is in an economic vise. It has been estimated that public employees get about 17 minutes of work done every day. Currently, Iraq is the seventh-largest country producing oil, but oil revenue has been decreasing. The nation spends little of the income it generates on potential economic development of the implementation of projects. Iraq is unable to pay its bills due to a lack of funds. This led to a financial meltdown, which resulted in the fall of the government after widespread movements against corruption and unemployment. The marches were centered against high state officials in a community where unemployment hovers about 15% and one in every four people lives in poverty, earning as little as $2.20 per day.

Youth Unemployment

Approximately 700,000 young Iraqis join the employment market every year. A primer published for the World Bank on job development in Iraq listed the youth unemployment rate at 36%. There is no noticeable difference in the rate of unemployment between young people with primary education and those with higher degrees. Because of this, Iraqi youth have been at the frontline of occupation riots in Iraq. Similar to Iran, the country’s poor budget management and corruption have been central to their outrage.

Iraq’s prosperity is largely dependent on its ability to build employment for the young population. This is particularly true of university-educated young people. A study by the World Bank estimates that Iraq needs to increase the number of jobs by 100 to 180% to address its workforce needs sufficiently.

Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs)

The International Labor Organization (ILO), together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Iraq (MOLSA), is implementing DWCPs in Iraq. DWCPs are systems for financial guidance that focus on creating jobs through the growth of the private sector. They also assist with the expansion of social security coverage, freedom of association and National Employment Policy design and implementation. In March 2020, in response to a request by MOLSA, the ILO formed the first cooperation department for Iraqi counties in the city of Baghdad. With a budget of $17.5 million, the program is implementing five projects to encourage quality work and increase job opportunities. These projects will help Iraq’s government, employees and employers.

Overall, there are high hopes for the country’s future. The youth are not going to stop demanding change until they get it. With big changes the government is hoping to make in the next decade, there could be a possible decrease in the rate of unemployment.

– Rand Lateef
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Costa Rica
Known as one of the ultimate vacation destinations, Costa Rica is a place of beautiful scenery, tourist hotspots and lively culture. However, Costa Rica needs to address human trafficking. Human trafficking in Costa Rica is one of the only areas in which the country falls short in comparison to its Central American neighbors. When it comes to GDP, level of happiness, human development and corruption, Costa Rica performs quite well. Here is some insight into human trafficking in Costa Rica and why it is so prevalent.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 aids the U.S. government’s anti-trafficking efforts by providing the implements necessary to monitor and combat trafficking across the world and in the United States. The amended act authorized the establishment of The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) as well as the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).

Every year, the Secretary of State submits a TIP report ranking a list of countries requiring special scrutiny. The Secretary of State ranks each country or territory in one out of four tiers.

  • Tier 1: Countries and territories that have governments that fully comply with the TVPAs minimum standards.
  • Tier 2: Countries and territories that have governments that do not fully comply with the TVPAs minimum standards, but are taking significant steps to meet the requirements.
  • Tier 2 Watchlist: Countries and territories that are in Tier 2 and are increasing in the estimated number of trafficking victims without taking proportional actions or the country or territory’s government and failing to provide sufficient evidence of increasing efforts in combating human trafficking from the previous year.
  • Tier 3: Countries and territories that possess governments that do not fully comply with TVPAs minimum standards and are not making any efforts to do so.

The Situation in Costa Rica

In 2020, Costa Rica was in Tier 2 under the TVPA. If human trafficking in Costa Rica does not show increasing progress over the next few years, it could fall to Tier 3. Not only does Tier 3 mean international disrepute, but it has serious economic consequences in regards to foreign assistance. Efforts to decrease human trafficking in Costa Rica include:

  • Increasing victim identification.
  • Investigating and convicting more traffickers.
  • Making human trafficking cases among its top priorities.
  • Using a larger percentage of its anti-trafficking budget.

Prioritized Recommendations for the Costa Rican Government

Although these steps by the Costa Rican government are significant, the country is falling short in some areas. The TIP report for Costa Rica includes “Prioritized Recommendations.” Here are some recommendations that Costa Rica could undertake:

  • Increase anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors and judges.
  • Intensify investigation efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses.
  • Fund and implement a judicial action plan for investigations and prosecutions.
  • Coordinate with civil society to increase victim identification.
  • Reduce the number of trafficking cases that are experiencing a backlog in the judicial system.
  • Strengthen efforts to convict child sex tourists.

Factors of Human Trafficking in Costa Rica

Due to a lack of resources and job opportunities, systematic inequality and poverty most frequently link to human trafficking. Even though Costa Rica is among the least poor countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, it has not seen much economic growth since 2010, and about 21% of its population lives in poverty.

Another factor contributing to human trafficking in Costa Rica is its prostitution laws. Although the facilitation and promotion of prostitution are illegal, the act of prostitution is not a crime. This makes Costa Rica reputable as a sex tourism destination. It is the number one destination in Central America for sex tourism. The legality of prostitution makes corruption easy in regards to trafficking minors as well as making sex establishments more accessible.

Behind drugs, human trafficking is the second-most profitable illegal industry. According to The International Labor Organization (ILO), profits from human trafficking are around $150 billion annually. The high earnings of the industry are another factor that promotes human trafficking in Costa Rica.

There are also cultural factors that affect human trafficking in Costa Rica. For instance, Costa Rica has a strong presence of masculinity. As a result, many men in Costa Rica view women as sexual objects. Factors such as traditional gender views, sexual harassment and domestic violence strengthen the systematic inequality in Costa Rica and put women at more risk for exploitation.

Taking Action

Multiple institutions are coordinating together to prevent human trafficking in Costa Rica. The National Coalition against Illicit Smuggling and Trafficking of Migrants (CONATT) coordinates short and long-term assistance to trafficking victims in the form of shelter, food and medical care. Chaired by Migration Authority, CONATT comprises 22 public institutions, key NGOs and international organizations. They meet periodically to review progression in areas such as research, prevention, protection and prosecution. They take action to raise awareness via workshops, fairs, advertisements and training on how to identify and prevent trafficking. As these preventative measures continue, Costa Rica could be on its way to Tier 1 placement under the TVPA.

– Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Thai Fishing Industry
In recent weeks, Thailand experienced a new wave of COVID-19 cases originating from a large seafood market near Bangkok. The Prime Minister of Thailand wasted no time in blaming the outbreak on human smuggling networks and illegal immigrants. Most of those working at this particular market are from neighboring Myanmar. This ongoing outbreak brings Thailand’s fishing industry back into focus. The industry faces international pressure to address findings of horrific working conditions, unfair wages and forced labor. This article discusses the importance of the Thai fishing industry, the human rights abuses uncovered in recent years and what some are doing to address these issues.

Thai Fishing Industry

The Thai fishing industry exports more than $6 billion worth of products annually and employs more than 800,000 people. It is the world’s third-largest seafood exporter and the world’s leading exporter of shrimp. The industry came under fire in the E.U. in 2014 due to reports uncovering widespread forced labor, worker abuses and environmental degradation in the industry.

Burmese immigrants represent a majority of those working in the Thai fishing industry, followed by a smaller percentage of Thais, Cambodians and Laotians. Workers on fishing vessels are exclusively men, while men and women each work in the seafood processing sector. There is a mixture of regular and irregular workers, which makes ascertaining the true number of immigrants in the fishing industry difficult. About 3 million labor migrants legally live in Thailand and an estimated two million more are undocumented.

Poor Working Conditions

Working conditions on Thai fishing vessels are notoriously challenging. In multiple reports, workers discuss working 18-20 hour days with inadequate food, water and medical supplies. Between 14% and 18% of migrants report being victims of forced labor. Among these victims of human trafficking, over half report seeing a coworker killed in front of them. Threats from employers and beatings are common, along with working at sea for years at a time without being allowed to leave the vessel. These conditions affect all nationalities in the Thai fishing industry, but undocumented immigrants are the most vulnerable to mistreatment.

Solutions

Although much work is necessary to address issues in the Thai fishing industry, Thailand has been largely receptive to suggestions that organizations such as the ILO and other national and international human rights NGOs have made. The government has improved legal frameworks and compliance measures for fishing companies. Additionally, wages have increased and housing conditions are improving, according to respondents in a recent ILO survey released in 2020.

Specific laws that have gone into place include the elimination of recruitment fees that workers pay, banning the practice of employers withholding identity documents from workers and banning child labor in the fishing industry. Going forward, regional compliance will be essential in enforcing these legal frameworks. Thailand is attempting to set that precedent in the ASEAN region. In response, the E.U. lifted its “yellow card” rating for the industry and continues to accept seafood imports.

The Labor Protection Network

For more than 15 years, the Labor Protection Network (LPN) has been spearheading efforts to clean up the Thai fishing industry. LPN conducts direct action raids on illegal fishing boats, provides short- and long-term shelter for victims and educates children in its centers. Additionally, LPN has brought international attention to the industry through its advocacy campaigns. A notable part of these efforts is the appearance of co-founder Patima Tungpuchayakul in the documentary “Ghost Fleet.” In 2017, Tungpuchayakul received a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in human rights.

Each year, LPN also provides legal assistance to more than 3,000 migrants. It provides assistance in Thai, Burmese, Khmer or Lao, depending on migrants’ needs. Victims of human trafficking in Thailand have a right to government protection and legal assistance. LPN plays a crucial role in identifying victims of human trafficking that grants these protections, as the Thai authorities sometimes struggle to identify victims through its enforcement procedures.

Through the work of the government, LPN and other NGOs, the Thai fishing industry is improving its standards to meet international demands. With this spotlight on the human rights issues involved in the industry, funding and monitoring remain critical to building on current progress.

Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

women are more affected by global poverty
Women often make up the backbone of home and society, however, global poverty often affects women the most. Women across the globe are still fighting for equality in their workplaces, general society and in their own homes. This inequality is a significant factor why women make up the bulk of the impoverished population in the world.

According to data that the U.S. Census Bureau released in 2017, the maximum rate of poverty for men was 7% while the minimum poverty rate for women was 9.7%. Depending on the race and demographics, this rate only tends to increase. Here are five ways that global poverty affects women.

5 Ways that Global Poverty Affects Women

  1. Gender Wage Gap: The availability of equally paid jobs is critical in making women independent and hence improving any economy. According to the World Economic Forum, the annual average earnings of the men around the world was $23,000 in 2018. In contrast, the global average of annual earnings of women was only $12,000. The international intergovernmental economic organization G7 inferred from collected data that the gender wage gap is prevalent throughout the world. Furthermore, G7 determined that the gender wage gap does not depend on the current financial status of any country. The G7 claimed that the global average gender wage gap was still 17% in the year 2016. Moreover, discrepancies in the wages that employers paid to women, even in developed countries, affected women in economically weaker countries and low-paying jobs significantly.
  2. Job Segregation:  The International Labor Organization (ILO) found that nearly 80% of the female labor force works in the service sectors and less-paid clerical jobs contrary to managerial, professional or leadership roles. More women in administrative positions would bring in diverse and complementing perspectives into the idea pool. An increase in females in administrative positions would also allow an insight into the female consumers’ psyche. All of these benefits, plus an increase in creativity, would consequently increase revenue. In most countries, including many developed countries, the number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is unquestionably lesser than men. Only 28% of employees in STEM fields, which are the fastest-growing with higher paid jobs, are women. In addition to conservative social norms and gender bias, the lack of female role models also contributes to the smaller women labor force in STEM fields.
  3. Motherhood: Pregnancy can often be the tipping point in any woman’s career path. While women may face wage penalties, men might win salary premiums. Women frequently choose to take time off to stay at home and care for their children. However, the career break adversely affects their salaries even after they return to work. From the data that a study in Denmark conducted, a country with high gender equality measures, the salary of women sharply dropped nearly 3% after the birth of the first child and never recovered.
  4. Unpaid Caregiving: Another way that global poverty affects women is that they often don the role of caregivers for the elders and children in a family more than men, which is unpaid work. This extra work, nearly twice to 10 times the work that men do, is worth almost $11 trillion per year. Although women’s unpaid work amounts to nearly four years more work than men, women still earn less at their paid jobs. This is most likely due to the fact that women prefer part-time and easily transferable jobs after having a baby, in order to provide proper care for the child. Policies targeting lower childcare costs might help women in the long run. Additionally, policies focusing on incentives for men in sharing the childcare and domestic chores would also help women greatly. In general, providing any sort of assistance to alleviate the extra work of women would help in the long run. For example, women in Malawi spend 54 minutes a day on average collecting water. Providing labor-saving infrastructure results in less time obtaining water and more paid hours for women. Gender inequality in developing countries costs their economies $9 trillion per year. In Latin America, women’s paid work increased between 2000 and 2010. This resulted in a 30% reduction in poverty.
  5. Gender-biased Illiteracy: In low-income countries, the average literacy rate of men is 70% and 50% for women. In the 2014 World Value Survey, 26% of people across the world said that university education is comparatively more essential for a boy than a girl. A 2016 study in Nepal revealed that the poorer households sacrificed the literacy of daughters for better job prospects for sons.

How Organizations are Helping

Countries around the world have begun to realize that the inclusion of women, especially in leadership roles, is necessary for sustained, overall development. LivelyHoods, a nonprofit organization, noticed that the women were mainly the ones who dealt with household energy. In Kenya, indoor pollution due to smoke from conventional stoves causes 13,000 deaths per year. In an effort to combat indoor pollution, LivelyHoods employed the rural women population in Kenya to distribute life-improving, affordable, clean-energy products to the local population. The network of saleswomen that the organization employed distributed eco-friendly products like solar products, clean-burning cookstoves and many others. Of the top 10% of the salesforce, 90% are women who earn up to $1,000 per month. Over 1,500 trained women employees have distributed 26,000 clean energy products so far. This is an inspiring example of how indispensable women are to global development.

Ideas for Moving Forward

To help impoverished women improve their quality of life, governments could offer publicly financed schemes of extended leaves of absence for new mothers; replace individual taxation with family taxation so that the burden on the secondary earners, who are mostly women, lifts; provide tax benefits for low-wage earners; reduce the childcare cost for working women; encourage businesses to develop better practices like pay transparency and regular wage assessment based on gender; conduct free workshops for women to impart vocational skills as well as to spread awareness of various available job opportunities; offer equal job opportunities to women; conduct workshops in the men’s workplaces to show them how their personal and nation’s economy will flourish by sharing the childcare and domestic duties. Even implementing just a few of these tactics could help reduce the inequality women around the world face.

– Nirkkuna Nagaraj 
Photo: Flickr

human trafficking in Africa
Today estimates determine that over 40 million people live in modern-day slavery, making it more rampant than it has ever been in human history. A significant amount of this trafficking takes place in Africa. These 10 facts illustrate what human trafficking in Africa looks like and highlights some organizations that are combatting it.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Africa

  1. Twenty-three percent of global human trafficking takes place in Africa. According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, over 9.2 million people living in Africa are living in modern slavery. This makes up nearly a quarter of all human trafficking around the globe. When it comes to countries within Africa that have the highest amount of victims per 1,000 people, Eritrea has the highest prevalence with 93 victims per 1,000, followed by Burundi with 40 victims and the Central African Republic with 22.3.
  2. Nearly 40 percent of those trafficked in Africa are in forced labor. In Africa, forced labor is the reality for an estimated 37 percent of trafficking victims, according to the Global Slavery Index. Labor trafficking can take on many forms including work in agriculture, mining and fishing industries. Traffickers often force victims to work extensive hours in extremely dangerous conditions and potentially abusive environments with little to no pay.
  3. Over half of human trafficking victims in Africa are in a forced marriage. In Africa, traffickers force an estimated 63 percent of victims into marriage without their consent, many of whom are children. According to the International Labour Office, forced marriage of young girls and women can be in exchange for money, paying off debt or to settle disputes among families. Forced marriage can result in sexual and physical abuse, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. According to the Human Rights Watch, Africa and other governments included ending child marriage as one of the targets in the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Since then, UNICEF says several African countries have started to create and utilize preventative action plans and strategies to address child marriage.
  4. A lot is still unknown about human trafficking in special case countries. Libya and Somalia are both special case countries according to the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report. In other words, it is impossible to accurately measure the extent of trafficking due to extensive conflict in the area. It is Libya’s fourth consecutive year to have this classification. Violence and unrest in the region have led to a lack of authority and law enforcement, making it difficult to track human trafficking and combat it. Somalia has been a special case country for 17 consecutive years now, facing ongoing insecurity and a humanitarian crisis. Conflict in the area has continuously hindered efforts to prevent human trafficking.
  5. No African country fully meets the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. These minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) that the U.S. Department of State set includes four main parameters. These include prohibiting severe forms of trafficking, punishing trafficking crimes accordingly and making serious efforts to eliminate modern-day slavery. While no African countries fully meet these minimum standards, 19 are on the Tier 2 Watch List. According to the U.S. State Department, this means they are “making significant efforts” to comply with the TVPA’s standards.
  6. Over half of those suffering exploitation for labor are in debt bondage. According to Anti-Slavery International, debt bondage is the most common form of modern slavery. Through debt bondage, traffickers force victims to work in order to pay off a debt. However, in most cases, traffickers make debts impossible to pay off by giving laborers insufficient compensation or none at all. According to the Global Slavery Index, debt bondage accounts for 54 percent of people exploited for their labor in Africa.
  7. Over 400,000 people in Africa are victims of sexual exploitation. This accounts for 8 percent of forced sexual exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation of children around the globe. According to the International Labour Office, women and girls account for over 99 percent of these victims. 21 percent of all victims are children under the age of 18. These victims are men and women who traffickers have exploited for commercial sex. In some cases, victims may have voluntarily entered the industry but are not able to leave.
  8. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has the highest absolute number of human trafficking victims. Over one-quarter (26.3 percent) of all victims of human trafficking in Africa are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the U.S. Department of State, although the DRC government is not making significant efforts to end trafficking, it has made some progress. The government of the DRC has taken steps to prevent the use of child soldiers and has repatriated several trafficking victims. Congolese law has also criminalized all forms of sex trafficking, but only some forms of labor trafficking.
  9. South Africa launched the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons National Policy Framework. South Africa is not only a major destination for human trafficking but according to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), many also consider it a transit country for trafficking in North America and Europe. In 2019, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in South Africa created a framework of the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants. This National Policy Framework (NPF) engages governmental organizations as well as civil stakeholders in anti-trafficking efforts and aims to strengthen the criminal justice system in regards to human trafficking in South Africa. This framework is a four-year initiative in collaboration with the European Union and the UNODC.
  10. People traffick thousands of children on Lake Volta. Lake Volta is the world’s largest man-made lake and is essential to Ghana’s expansive fishing industry. According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), thousands of children work on this lake, many of whom traffickers force to work against their will. Often, traffickers force these children to do dangerous tasks such as untangling fishing nets and deep diving. The majority of trafficking victims are 10 years old or younger. Violence and starvation are common among these young trafficking victims and many are hard for the government to track as they are working on unregistered boats.  Since 2015, IJM has been able to rescue 164 victims from Lake Volta’s fishing industry and continues to partner with Ghana’s criminal justice system to bring traffickers to justice.

Human trafficking in Africa is a serious problem. However, with the help of organizations like the UNODC and IJM, awareness of modern-day slavery in Africa is increasing. The new legislation is helping to protect vulnerable populations and many African countries are joining the fight to end modern-day slavery.

– Megan McKeough
Photo: Flickr

Tobacco industry labour conditions
The global tobacco market accounted for $663.76 billion in 2017, and the tobacco industry is an economic sector employing millions of men and women. However, behind the scenes of the tobacco industry lies the death of 8 million people yearly, the creation of dependency and diseases for tobacco farmers, as well as extreme poverty, child labor and environmental issues. Tobacco industry labor conditions are very poor and require reform.

Tobacco Farmers

The tobacco industry controls the tobacco cycle from seed to sale and in most producing countries, tobacco companies operate in a contract system through which companies provide the inputs required–including seeds and chemicals for production–in the form of credit for farmers. Farmers agree to sell their tobacco leaf to specific companies at a set price in return. For many farmers, the revenue earned from their tobacco leaf sales barely suffices to cover their costs or repay their loans. This creates a debt cycle.

Moreover, Human Rights Watch reported labor rights abuses on large-scale tobacco farms. In Zimbabwe, some workers reported overtime and excess working hours after their employers pressured them, but they did not receive compensation for it. Other incidents and labor abuses include underpaid or delayed wages and occasionally going two months without receiving their salary, which makes it hard for workers to maintain a basic living standard.

Health Issues

Tobacco cultivation exposes workers and farmers to health hazards from pesticide exposure to nicotine poisoning. Physical contact with wet tobacco leaves causes the body to absorb nicotine leading to poisoning called green tobacco sickness (GTS). This involves symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fluctuating blood pressure and heart rate and trouble breathing, and they are quite frequent among tobacco workers.

Tobacco industry labor conditions expose workers to high amounts of pesticides which damages the human nervous system and can also cause pesticide poisoning; common symptoms include convulsions, respiratory problems, nausea, kidney damages and skin irritation. Children to have a lower intoxication threshold due to their smaller body mass and weaker immune system, which reinforces the issue of child labor in the tobacco industry.

Child Labor in the Tobacco Industry

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 108 million children work in agriculture, representing 70 percent of overall child labor. Although child employment is not easy to verify, some believe that millions work in the tobacco industry. Families living in poverty and dependent on tobacco production for a living often make their children work in tobacco farms and factories to help them. Because children start working from a very early age, they do not obtain a necessary education which could help them break away from the poverty cycle.

Child labor in the tobacco industry is prominent in India, especially in the production of Bidi. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10 percent of female workers and 5 percent of male workers in the bidi industry in India are below the age of 14 and that 40 percent of those children never went to school. Besides, although child labor is illegal in India, the county cannot incriminate employers as they do not include working children officially on their payrolls.

Many companies in the tobacco industry have adopted policies prohibiting children from working in direct contact with green tobacco, which is a step forward in limiting the health risks for children working in the tobacco industry. However, none of the tobacco companies adopted policies prohibiting the involvement of children working in direct contact with tobacco (such as dry tobacco). Moreover, the tobacco industry does not have, unlike other industries, a zero-tolerance policy for child labor, despite publicly condemning it.

International Reaction

In June 2018, 130 public health and sustainable development organizations wrote a letter to the ILO urging it not to renew or extend contracts with Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco-Growing (ECLT), which is a group that the tobacco industry funds, and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which ties the ILO to the tobacco industry. Yet, despite the recommendations from the U.N. Interagency Task Force (UNIATF), the ILO still has not cut its ties, which include funding, and its partnerships with the tobacco industry. With regards to tobacco companies, some ‘Tobacco giants’ begun reforming their practices, such as Philip Morris International who committed to eliminating child labour entirely from its supply chain by 2025, hopefully leading the way for the rest of the industry.”

Considering that one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (Target 8.7) aims to eradicate child labor in all its forms by 2025, the ILO must make it a priority and address the root causes of child labor. Besides, companies and governments must work hand in hand to increasingly adopt adequate labor policies to improve tobacco industry labor conditions, reduce the health risks workers and farmers suffer from, as well as enforce a zero-tolerance child labor policy.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in Turkey
Child labor in Turkey continues as both an international and domestic issue for the country. Despite Turkish and international community efforts to establish policies and initiatives to prevent child labor and protect the interests of children, child labor persists. The below facts highlight the details of the type of labor children typically perform as well as the efforts the government of Turkey has made to end child labor.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Turkey

  1. Work in Hazelnut Fields: Hazelnut production in Turkey is the largest sector of agricultural production, making up approximately 20 percent of Turkey’s agricultural exports. For this reason, many migrant agricultural workers travel along the eastern and western regions of Turkey looking for work during the hazelnut harvesting season. The children of these workers travel with their families and also contribute to the harvest of hazelnuts in Turkey. In 2017, nearly 800,000 children worked in the hazelnut fields. Most children work 11 hour days, seven days a week in the fields.
  2. The Second National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking: The Second National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking is an existing program in Turkey. This program identifies and protects both the victims of child trafficking as well as those children who are at high-risk for trafficking, such as the children of migrant agricultural workers. The high-risk children this program identified are the recipients of additional security precautions that the shelters took in. Victims of human trafficking frequently become migrant agricultural workers.
  3. Children of Syrian Refugees are High-Risk: As the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey continues to grow, so does the number of Syrian families working as migrant agricultural workers. Due to their status within the country of Turkey, many of these laborers work longer hours than those of the Turkish migrant workers and receive lower wages, with children oftentimes earning half of an adult’s wage. The children of the Syrian refugees are at an even higher risk of becoming permanently part of the sector of migrant labor due to lower access to education, discrimination and financial barriers.
  4. Efforts of the Turkish Government to Eradicate Child Labor: The Turkish government has made efforts to combat the high levels of child labor with a variety of government-funded programs. The Conditional Education and Health Care Assistance Program “aims to reduce poverty through cash transfers,” which takes the form of free milk and books given to primary school children. In 2017, approximately 190,000 children benefited from this program. By providing food and educational support, the Turkish government aims to create a learning environment for children where their families feel that they can afford the time for their children to be in school instead of working to earn extra money.
  5. Child labor in Turkey Increased in 2018: Despite the sweeping measures that the Turkish government has taken to prevent and eventually put an end to child labor in Turkey, the number of child laborers saw a marked increase in 2018. The Turkish government made a commitment to the International Labor Organization (ILO) that it would put an end to child labor by 2015, but that has not been the case thus far.
  6. Education Rates of Child Laborers: Due to the long hours that child laborers in Turkey work, they are unable to consistently attend schools in the areas where they work on hazelnut farms. The children also move around too frequently with their families to establish a lasting record at any one school, contributing to these children’s decreased likelihood of school attendance. In addition, the vocational schools that exist in areas that have heavy industry provide an education to children that promotes their continued work in the industrial sphere.
  7. Minimum Age for Child Labor: Turkey has existing laws in place that are to protect children from child labor. There is a minimum age requirement of 15 for agricultural work and a minimum age of 18 for hazardous work. A prohibition of forced labor and child trafficking also currently exists in Turkey. Despite the efforts of the government of Turkey, holes continue to exist in the legal framework that aims to protect children from hazardous child labor.
  8. Effective Enforcement of Existing Child Labor Laws: Though the Turkish government has age limits in place for child labor, as well as a list of light work that the Regulation on the Principles and Procedures Governing the Employment of Children and Young Workers permits, high levels of child labor in Turkey persist. Part of this gap in the legislation and actual protection of child laborers is due in part to the low numbers of inspectors and the classification of agricultural work as light labor. The Regulation on Principles has indicated that the country must legally consider picking fruit and vegetables as light work, therefore placing very few restrictions on migratory agriculture. Despite this, the gaps that exist in the legal framework “may hinder adequate enforcement of [Turkey’s] child labor laws.”
  9. National Program to Combat Child Labor in Turkey: The government of Turkey has made an effort to maintain compliance with international child labor laws. The National Program to Combat Child Labor began in 2017 and is to run until 2023. This program focuses on maintaining surveillance of the labor sectors of migratory agriculture, street work and work performed in small to medium industries to ensure that none of Turkey’s existing child labor laws are in violation.
  10. The Global March Against Child Labour: There are multiple NGOs in the international sphere that are fighting to end child labor worldwide. The Global March Against Child Labour is one such organization with a mission is to “mobilise worldwide efforts to protect and promote the rights of all children, especially the right to receive a free and meaningful education and the right to be free from economic exploitation.” Global March operates through the advocacy of issues to policymakers, raising awareness of child labor around the world and building partnerships with existing organizations such as the International Labour Organization. The Global March has seen success in many of its areas of focus. In 2018, Global March organized the Meet of Parliamentarians Without Borders for Children’s Rights in Brussels, Belgium. At the conclusion of the parliament, in which MPs from Sri Lanka, Benin, Togo, Paraguay, Uganda, Ghana, the Netherlands and Costa Rica attended, all MPs committed to working within their respective parliaments to end child labor in their countries.

Turkey still requires progress to put an end to dangerous and damaging child labor, but the steps that it has made in its own programs, as well as international programs, shows hope for a future for child labor in Turkey. That future includes stronger protection of a child’s right to receive an education and lead a stable life out of the fields.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr

global poverty levels

The International Labor Organization (ILO) released a new report, “World Employment and Social Outlook 2016 – Transforming Jobs to End Poverty”, which assesses current global poverty levels. Director-General Guy Ryder states that poverty continues to remain frustratingly high in Africa and parts of Asia.

“For example, more than 40 percent of the African population continues to live in extreme poverty and some 64 percent in extreme or moderate poverty. Another element, which I think we have to pay attention to, is the fact that in the developed world, there has been an increase, an absolute increase in poverty, notably in this continent of Europe.”

According to the ILO, this is most likely due to the high number of refugees seeking comfort in Europe in the past few years.

Income inequality is becoming a bigger problem in these regions, cautions Ryder. After years of decline, the disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is currently expanding and slowly turning the wheel of the socioeconomic inequality cycle.

“In addition, the ability of growth to reduce poverty is compromised by the inequitable income distribution, showing that the rich are taking a disproportionately high share of the benefits of growth and, in a way, could be considered partly responsible for this perpetuation of poverty.”

Despite Ryder’s precautions however, global poverty levels are the lowest they have been in history. Vast advances have been made in China and a majority of Latin America.

ILO approximates the number of people living in extreme poverty in 107 emerging and developing countries, with incomes of less than $2 a day, has dropped from 50 percent in 1990 to roughly under 15 percent in 2012. If this trend continues, poverty levels should continue to drop in the future.

The ILO continues to work with the United Nations to eradicate poverty worldwide. A study performed by ILO revealed an estimated $10 trillion will be needed to eliminate extreme and moderate poverty all across the nations by 2030. ILO also stated, “Quality jobs that provide social protection must play a central role to end poverty.”

Rachel Hutchinson

FIFA-Qatar-Kafala-System
The recent scandal surrounding corruption at FIFA has made headlines around the world. But could it affect the controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar?

That remained in question Friday as FIFA re-elected Sepp Blatter as its president. The election comes on the heels of a massive corruption investigation involving the top brass of soccer’s governing body. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 of the organization’s executives on dozens of separate charges this week. They are accused of “brazen corruption” in their dealings with sports marketing companies which generate billions for the organization.

FIFA is also accused of dishonesty in its selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively. The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland announced Wednesday that it would investigate “criminal mismanagement and money laundering” suspected to have taken place during the bidding process.

Though both selections raised eyebrows among soccer fans, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has proven to be the most controversial. The Gulf state has been widely accused of human rights abuses in its preparation for the event.

Migrant laborers seeking work in Qatar submit to a labor scheme, known as the kafala system, through which host companies “sponsor” foreign laborers. Upon arrival, many workers find their documentation confiscated and their rights severely limited. They sometimes work twelve hour days, seven days a week.

According to the International Labor Organization, the scheme is tantamount to slavery. An investigation by The Guardian found Nepalese workers in Qatar were dying at a rate of one every two days in 2014. Documents produced by that report list worker deaths caused by crushing and electrocution.

Without documentation papers, workers are prevented from ever leaving. Employers also withhold pay to suppress dissent.

Migrant workers play an enormous role in the economy of Qatar. Almost 90 percent of the country’s population is foreign-born and 99 percent of the private sector is foreign. Though human rights organizations and governments have complained, little has been done to address these issues.

Much of the work being conducted in this manner is in preparation for the 2022 World Cup, with contractors using the cheap labor to build facilities for the event.

If the current FIFA crisis continues, it will almost certainly jeopardize Qatar’s hosting opportunity. Sponsors have already begun to re-evaluate their relations with the organization and it is likely many will drop out.

As for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow, Blatter received a stamp of approval from another controversial president: Vladimir Putin. On Thursday, Putin said the investigation was an attempt to thwart Blatter’s re-election. The Russian leader, who was a champion of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, called the investigation “a grave violation of principles of international organization.”

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: Department of Justice, The Guardian, Human Rights Watch, Swiss Attorney General
Photo: Zee News