Today’s Solutions: January 28, 2023

“child labor shouldn’t be banned”

Marco Visscher | December 2004 issue

What? Shouldn’t kids be able to go to school and play outside?
“Of course, that’s the image we’d like to have of children. Unfortunately, this is not reality. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are some 200 million children working in developing countries. Everyone agrees that the figures are alarming and everyone is opposed to it.”

And you disagree?
“I don’t think it’s constructive when the entire world simply turns against a phenomenon that has always existed and will never disappear. More to the point, when a Western company caves in to pressure and decides to ban child labor, the children that worked there end up in prostitution or working illegally, which is much worse. I believe we are not taking reality seriously if we are simply against child labor. I mean, we’re all in favor of nice weather, but what difference does that make?”

Companies that use child labor are excluded from the ethical investment funds of your ASN Bank. You don’t consider that constructive either.
“Indeed, it won’t help the children to simply monitor whether a company uses child labor. We want to turn it around by examining whether companies make a positive contribution to the development of children. Companies could set up projects involving children. There’s nothing wrong with child labor as long as it doesn’t involve forced labor, exploitation and slavery. According to international norms in this area, children from age 12 can work in a store or workshop. Honestly, we are not so naïve as to think that companies are going to solve the whole problem. But on the other hand, when a company locates in a developing area, it has certain responsibilities. We want to inspire companies to fulfill those responsibilities.”

Jeroen Jansen is deputy director of ASN Bank, the Netherlands’ largest bank dedicated to social responsibility.

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