Saturday, May 23, 2009

Uzbek Cotton, Again

Farangis Najibullah looks at the persistence of child labor in Uzbekistan's cotton fields:
"With the potential for fallout from major retailers, critics wonder why adults would not be employed in the cotton fields instead of children, particularly in a country with rampant unemployment. After all, with the largest population in Central Asia with 28 million inhabitants, Uzbekistan has an ample adult work force.

"Uzbek farmers say the answer is simple: Child labor is preferred because it's cheap. Children receive as little as $.03 for every kilogram of cotton they pick.

"Ferghana-based rights activist Bahodir Elboev says the pay is so low that it cannot compare to the money adult men can earn working as seasonal laborers abroad.

"'If a grown-up man works casual jobs he makes at least $6-7 a day and can earn some $200 a month,' Elboev says. 'Farmers never pay anyone $200 a month!'...

"He adds that even if officials were to stop recruiting children for cotton farming, widespread poverty would lead many families to send their children to the fields anyway.

"Many Uzbeks believe that unless farmers receive decent payment for their work, making the cotton industry a lucrative source of income not only for those who sell the product abroad but also for those who work in the fields -- the practice of child labor will remain entrenched in Uzbekistan."

This doesn't mean the problem doesn't go back to the government, as it's ultimately government interests in Uzbekistan that decide how much the farmers get paid.



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