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THE PHILIPPINES The constitution of the Philippines forbids the employment of children below the age of 15 except under the responsibility ofparents or guardians, and then only if the work does not interfere with schooling. It allows employment of children aged from 1 S to 18 under conditions established by the government. Nobody under the age of 18 is allowed to take part in hazardous work but serious violations of child-labour laws occur in the piecework or contracting out of embroidery and other work related to textiles. The field study In the Philippines the field study looked at obedient hands which have done jobs a German textiles multinational with 48 such as sewing, embroidering, making branches around the world, including one button-holes and attaching separate pieces in the Philippines, which produces of the product. women's clothing such as bras, girdles, panties and bikinis. 98% of its output is marketed in Europe; the remainder is sold Working class in the Philippines. This company produces The parents of the child-workers are from clothes in the Philippines because of the the low-paid working class: mechanics, low wages which it -has to pay, and like drivers, farm-workers, electricians and many other businesses in the Philippines vendors. Their mothers may be garment- it benefits from using child labour. It doesworkers working in the same hut. Families not do so directly, but contracts work to can have as many as 23 members, and local firms and asks no questions; these they live in dilapidated two-room houses firms employ child labour themselves or often with dirt foors and with ceilings so sub-contract the work again. low that adults have to stoop. These homes Some children start working at the age of are sometimes close to the factory but four. many can be found on river banks and on the edge of swamps. There is no adequate When local operators receive an order ventilation. Prize possessions are a from a multinational for a certain quantity television set, a sewing machine and a fan. of underwear, either they produce it in Sadly, frequently these «prizes» have their own factory or they farm it out to broken down and the family cannot afford sub-contractors in community-level to have them repaired. «factories» that are nothing more than small huts. Most of the community-level Latrines are often primitive, and stink; workers are children. The child-workers, gastro-intestinal ailments are rampant. mostly girls, are chosen for their extreme Children often have to make do with one poverty, their docility and their dexterity or two meals a day, which inhibits their with their fingers. The sub-contractor pays mental and physical development. the children considerably less than the contractor pays him for each item. The field study found that from four to six years of age child-workers have their There is always a delay in paying for the earnings appropriated by their mothers. work which is contracted out, which means From seven to 12, children alternate school that the child-workers have to wait for with garments production, and many of their meagre pay-packets. Contractors also the children in this age group said they compete fiercely to win the limited number sent their wages on school needs. of contracts that are on offer. They offer From 12 to l some children try to get a the very lowest possible price, and this secondary education but those who cannot ensures that the child-workers' wages stay afford to do so go to work. low. The beneficiary of this process is the German multinational. Girls are under more pressure to give up The underwear that reaches its main school than boys. This is because, in addi- factory is in an advanced state of manu- tion to their jobs, they are expected to facture, thanks to the young, delicate and carry out household chores such as cleaning, washing, ironing and baby- relations. sitting. Many younger girls placed a high premium on education, as they said that their textile jobs were a stepping stone to The multinational makes the money better education. Some girls said they These child-worker produce the women's were working so that they could send their underwear that the German multinational younger brothers and sisters to school - in sells on the world market, particularly in a spirit of self-sacrifice they had given up Europe. A piece for which a child in their own ambitions. tattered clothes is paid 80 centavos can be Their ideal, often expressed, was to sold by the company for the equivalent of become a nurse or doctor working 150 pesos, a difference of more than overseas-a dream not for them but for 1,000% even considering the cost of the their younger brothers and sisters. raw materials. The field study found that in factories run Four-year-old workers by the contractors the workforce ranged Wages are paid by piece-rate. Children from 30 to 100 people, and at home work- aged between four and six, who do simple sites from five to 30 people. In both, the jobs, earn roughly five pesos a day, while age of the workers ranges from ten to 45. an l l-year-old may earn up to 10 pesos a Almost all the workers are girls or women. day. In factories, children work for eight At home work-sites the ratio of adults to to 11 hours a day, Monday to Friday. children can be two to one. In the peak pre-Christmas season they work on Saturdays and Sundays as well, and for a rush job they can work for as No Job security many as 24 hours before taking a break. In In the factories the conditions of work are the many an months they are encouraged to what is known as "casual", while for those come late and leave earlier which is in the at home work-sites, there is no job security interests of the sub-contractor who pays at all. In the factories, the working day is by piece-rate. Take-home pay from from 7 am to 7 pm with an hour off for factories varies between 15 and 150 pesos lunch. At home work-sites there are no a week. schedules, and payment is by piece-work. For example, a seamstress in a community If the work is not considered up to standard, work-site gets five centavos to attach lace the children have to re-do the rejects a to a bra. She usually sews 500 pieces of very unfair system which upsets the lace a day and earns 25 pesos. At the children, as they have to pay for the cost of factories a folder/packer can earn 30 pesos the thread and are not paid for the extra a week for packing 1,200 half-slips or work involved. They complain of back bras. strain and hand cramps after long hours of stitching, and of allergies to factory dust In the factories workers are given snacks and eye strain. Accidents are frequent - during overnight work and a free excur- there have been several cases in which sion to a resort every year. In the children's fingers have been cut off. community work-places, on the other hand, there are no benefits except access Children are under such pressure to meet to a television and cold water. quotas that they repress the desire to use the toilet. Sometimes they are sent on One factory visited during the field study unpaid errands while at work; they are was a crowded, two-storey building shouted at, cursed and otherwise crammed with machines, bundles of cloth, humiliated by their bosses. thread, plastic bags and cartons. It was Adult workers are given the best work well-lit and the toilet was adequate. But positions and access to fans. the place was poorly ventilate, and the smell of the textile was nauseating. The position of children who carry out the Chemicals irritated the eyes and the sound same work at home is marginally better of the machines was deafening. than those who work in factories. They are given more time to rest and are More relaxed at home not exposed to such a strict, menacing The house visited in the field study was boss, as they are in the charge of parents or one of the better ones. Some other work- places are dilapidated and poorly lit and These children do not realise that they are ventilated. This is particularly the case in being exploited. They have no idea of the the poorest communities, and it is here multinational's profits. On the contrary, that the children are under particular pres- they regard themselves as lucky to have sure to accept employment at extremely the job so that they can afford to go to low wage rates. school as well. In the home work-sites, houses turned Perhaps not surprisingly, the field survey into factories provided a more relaxed did not come across any case of children atmosphere. Children watched television, organising themselves to protest against drank cold water or relaxed in the living their low wages or appalling working room during breaks. conditions. Their main concern was when the sub- Children keep quiet, as they dare not risk contractor, who owns the house, demanded losing their jobs, and they usually voice more work - especially during the peak satisfaction. pre-Christmas season.
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