CHILD LABOR in the WEAVING INDUSTRY
The use of child labor in several countries where hand-woven rugs and carpets are produced has been well-documented. But those of us who are fortunate enough to have been born and raised in a free Western country such as America, where child labor laws are in place and rigidly enforced, may be totally unaware of the early age and the extent to which children in these countries are working at weaving looms... sometimes 16 and 18 hours a day, 7 days a week and from the age of 3 up!
In areas of the world where rug weaving is the major source of income for a family (very much like farming was in America in the 19th century), children are expected to help with chores and bring in some income when possible. Weaving is a specialized skill passed down from parents to children and it can mean more income for the family when the children are involved. This is a fact of life for these people. Unfortunately, education and the possibility of a better life for the children quickly fall by the wayside through the actions of dishonest profiteers in the industry.
While we can understand that children working with their parents at home can be beneficial for the family unit, even though it means delaying education of eliminating it altogether, it is generally not considered to be morally wrong. Forced or bonded labor, on the other hand, is evil and abusive, no matter the age of the person forced to work long hours for little or no pay under excessively harsh conditions.
FORCED OR BONDED LABOR
Forced or bonded labor can be initiated when a poverty-stricken family requests a loan from a weaving contractor, perhaps for a wedding or a funeral. In order to pay back the loan, one or more family members will be forced to work until the loan is paid off. It is unlikely the loan will be paid back in a reasonable time because of extremely low wages and unfairly high interest. Also, typically, the amount of debt remaining at any time is kept from the family members.
If the family member forced into bonded labor is a child, due to the long hours and poor nutrition, the child may get sick (with no treatment available) or even die. That child will more than likely have been physically or verbally abused as well.
Even if a country has labor laws in place, they are rarely enforced. For example, in Pakistan in 1992 the Bonded Labor Abolition Act was actually put in place, but it is still not regularly enforced.
WHY CHILD LABOR?
Poverty! Poverty is the main reason why child labor or any type of forced or bonded labor exists in poor countries. Poverty leads to illiteracy, low productivity, poor health and low life expectancy. For the children, it is a vicious circle, all leading back to poverty with no way out.
Under-handed rug making companies use children because they are the lowest quality and cheapest labor around, even though they are the least skilled. These are the companies that sell sub-standard rugs and consistently cut corners on such important things as wool quality and dyes.
And these are the very companies you can be certain employ children in forced or bonded labor. If the rug you are thinking of buying is of good quality, it was most likely made by an adult experienced weaver who is producing work for an income.
Years ago, a propaganda campaign was run by dishonest weaving companies to convince consumers that the small and nimble fingers of children were necessary to form the intricate designs used in rug making. Even though this claim was discredited a long time ago, there are still some who believe this to be true.
THE EFFECT OF CHILD LABOR and FORCED OR BONDED LABOR ON CHILDREN
To find our more about how child labor affects children, what is being done to stop child labor, and what you can do to help, please continue reading here.