1990s >> 1997 >> no-1110-february-1997

The Scavenger: These Foolish Things . . .

The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that there are 250 million children working, many of them in the sex trade and in industrial jobs which threaten their lives . . . But, as it points out, ending all child labour will be a long and complicated business and some of the remedies proposed by Westerners have been counter-productive. The Harkin Bill introduced in the IJS Congress aiming to prohibit the import of products made by children under 15 is a case in point. Although the bill never reached the statute books, the threat of it caused panic in the clothes industry in Bangladesh and dozens of child workers were dismissed. The children, mostly girls, were traced and found to have moved on to more dangerous and exploitative workshops, or to have become prostitutes. The report emphasises that child labour is mainly a product of poverty and many surveys have shown that children’s work is often essential to keeping the family just self-sufficient. Guardian, 12 December.

Middle class?
The news that British Airways is to move accountancy jobs to India has more radical implications for people in the developed world than possible any other story this year. About 200 jobs are being transferred to Bombay to take advantage of wages as low as £4,000 a year against the £20,000 for their British counterparts. This is part of a rising trend for job exporting to hit white-collar workers, as education and living standards rise in emerging countries. Financial Mail on Sunday, 10 November.

James Ferman, director of the British Board of Film Classification, said screen violence was a global problem. “The solution is beyond the reach of British law. The real solution is for Hollywood to wake up with a conscience. But I have my doubts—there is too much money at stake . . . Censorship can cut gratuitous acts of violence. But we cannot change the culture of violence which permeates much mainstream film-making.” Guardian, 12 December.

Can capital care?
Investment with a conscience is a scarce luxury in a hard-nosed world . . . Research by the Ethical Consumer magazine shows that, of the big banks, only the Co-operative and NatWest take environmental issues seriously when lending to companies. Most also fail adequately to consider concerns such as animal testing, factory fanning, oppressive regimes, armaments and workers’ rights. NatWest’s ethical lending policy is typical of the big banks: “We strongly believe that it is not the responsibility of lenders to police or try to manager their customers’ businesses.” Financial Mail on Sunday, 3 November.

Capitalism flourishes?
More than a third of the 3.4 million companies set up in eastern Europe with European Union help appear to have failed . . . The EU channelled more than £7 billion of investment into eastern Europe between 1992 and 1994, the last two years for which figures are available. The survey, compiled by the EU’s statistical unit in Luxembourg, shows about 30 percent of the new companies were in Poland, 20 percent in the Czech Republic and 15 percent in Hungary . . . Two thirds have no salaried employees (the average company employs seven staff) and more than half were located in the home of the person setting up the company. Guardian, 31 October.

The Scavenger