Child Labor in the Philippines

CNN did an interesting article on child workers in the Philippines on May 1, Labor Day. The article cites the International Labor Organization’s estimate that there are 2.4 million child workers in the Philippines. Here is a link to the CNN article.
This is consistent with what I’ve seen locally, where a child is not looked upon by the family as a young human to be cherished and nurtured to be the best he can be. The parental view in poor families is decidedly utilitarian. The child is a way to get some money in order to eat.
Source: CNN. Child Labor in the Philippines
On one hand, this “failure to nurture” can be assigned in large measure to the Catholic Church, which advocates active birthing, or natural birth control. Natural birth control is an alias for active birthing because it doesn’t work. It is not the Devil that is in the details here. It is the human sex drive, put there by God to ensure survival of the species in the face of the disasters He regularly visits upon the planet as if we were all Job still atoning for our transgressions. And we must deal with the excesses of Satan, too, who is well lodged in the hearts of many a man.
But there are two more culprits we can point to. And to zero in on them, I will use a couple of quotes from the CNN article as uttered by Edith Villanueva, the president and COO of the Sugar Industry Foundation.  She said:
“We do not deny that child labor exists in our industry. It’s a practice among families who are paid piecemeal for their work. They like to employ their children because there’s more income for the families.”
This honest, pragmatic woman went on to add:
“If you don’t change their attitude and their values, then you don’t change their way of life. There’s a long-term solution and it’s really education. We feel children should want to go to school, they should be kept in school, and aware of the rights of the children, the rights of the child to go to school and the right of the child to play.”
So she nails the other two culprits dead on. One, education, she gets to explicitly. The other, parental responsibility, she leaves lying between the lines with the statement ” . . . they should be kept in school. . .”
So here are the culprits in the “failure to nurture” many Filipino children: (1) Catholic Church, (2) Department of Education, and (3) Parents.
Ah, okay. And add a fourth. (4) Government for failing to produce enough wealth in the Philippines so that parents can get jobs that pay enough to support 14 kids.
Some people would like to lay the blame at the feet of businesses, too. For example, Coca Cola buys a lot of the sugar made from the cane harvested by kid labor.
But to me, that is rather like Egypt jailing an actor for playing roles offensive to conservative Muslims. As if the actor should police film-maker morals.
Well, it is good if Coca Cola has a conscience, and it is good if they exercise what authority they can to make sure kids aren’t working. But who do they ultimately exercise that authority over?
And Schools.
Coca Cola would never say anything about the Church. That is up to wayward bloggers who don’t worry too much about their profits. Nor would they say much about Government. They know where their permits are buttered.
Basically, Coca Cola and other businesses are not the primary CAUSE of child labor. It is important to cut swift and clean to the CAUSE.
Poverty is the root cause, and the Government, schools and Catholic Church can’t figure out a harmonious way to address it. Legislators want to shriek “stop birthing so many kids” but the Church is too powerful in their moral lives and re-elections. The Catholic Church lays the blame entirely on government for failing to generate a really big economy out of 7,000 dirt islands. And parents just do what they have to do. Have intercourse and scrape out a living.
Survival of the barely fit.
Well, no one asked Joe Am, of course, but he has ideas. Space cadet impractical, for sure, in a land of infinite ways to argue against progressive thinking. And his ideas are this:
It starts with education.  Specifically the Department of Education.
  • Make public education free. No uniforms, no exam fees, free pencils and paper and text books. Get rid of the insane hurdle of money that poor people earning P150 a day, feeding 14 kids, cannot get past. Now the schools charge fees and the government pays out billions to poor people in grants as long as they keep their kids in school. Duh, stop the round-about and just get rid of the fees.
  • Make school attendance mandatory, by law. Rule that it is ABUSIVE for parents to remove a child from school. And ENFORCE the law with paid truancy staff. Penalties should increase in severity from fines to public service to jail for parents. Or placement of children in foster homes.  MANDATE parental responsibility. Make a big national public service campaign about the matter: “Keep your kids in school. It’s the law.”
  • Include “Social Values” in mandatory Parent/Teacher meetings. Explain that the Philippines needs better educated people to make its economy work, to raise everyone up. Tell them to look for a long term payback, not short term. Cite the cost of raising a child. State that the number of kids a family decides upon is a choice.
  • Include “Social Values” in the curriculum for high school freshmen. Talk about sex, parental responsibility, the concept of “deadbeat dads”, cost of kids, and choice.
Government needs to get a rein on the economy and the Catholic Church
  • Enough of the blames and excuse-making. Get on top of things. Wealth is not generated by the 1.7 million kids born last year. For 18 years, they are a drain on resources, or an investment, depending on how you look at it.
  • If they cannot fit into the scheme of wealth generation, they are forever a drain. Just as poor families today are a drain. They are NOT an investment. The tax money shipped out every two weeks to poor families has a small payback. That money could go to support income generating trade or to schools for skill-development.
  • The formula to greater wealth is so simplistic, eh? Slow the pace of birthing. Accelerate the pace of education for long term health. Accelerate the pace of GDP growth for near-term wealth.
  • But it is not simple when the values of the Catholic Church are allowed to stand in the way of one-half of the solution. The Church has basically zero responsibility for creating wealth and jobs. It needs to be told to stand aside. By the government, by the people, by Church members who are given a harsh and heartless choice between being a sinner or being overwhelmed by costly kids. The Church needs to develop a heart as big as that worn by Jesus.
There can be no excuse
No one, anywhere, should feel he or she has the right to blame someone else for the problem of child labor. If every citizen and every institution looks inward, kids will be out of the cane fields quicker than you can say “please pass the Coca Cola”.
14 Responses to “Child Labor in the Philippines”
  1. brianitus says:

    "The tax money shipped out every two weeks to poor families has a small payback. "If you're referring to the CCT, Joe, it's more of a case of having nothing else better to do. It's also a classic case of "If you don't know what to do, let's just throw money at it and see what happens."

  2. The program seems rather socialistic to me. Socialism is notorious for failing to instill a drive for improvement. I don't begrudge the poor getting their money however they can, as long as it is legal. But I'd rather see some fundamentals put into place that provoke something other than begging. Plus, I can't get to the ATM for the clamoring hordes lines up for their freebies. So I can't get at my money to spend it willfully to help the Philippine economy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    IMHO, one of the major causes of child labor is the skewed values of Filipino parents. They have 14 kids because they believe that more children means more hands to work for them (never mind if they did not even reach Grade 1). But the stupid thing is that once their children grow up to become prostitutes, snatchers, pickpockets and muggers, these same parents will end up blaming the government for their poverty.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Our Asian neighbors' economies continue to grow by leaps and bounds. They see education and learning English as a means to stay competitive in the global market. Meanwhile, the Philippines' economy is contracting in key areas, and exports are almost non-existent (something we were proud of when the recession hit, but thankfully its come back to bite us in the ass). Education remains at the bottom of the government's concerns. The Church doesn't seem to give a shit.Schools will open in a month. I'm not looking forward to the usual news broadcasts about the lack of classrooms and teachers. It's hard not be a cynic about these things, I tell you.- patrioticflip

  5. I think that is why America became so productive. The immigrants had a finely honed sense of personal responsibility, recognizing that they had no one but themselves to lean on.

  6. 45 kids per classroom in public schools. 1.7 million kids born last year. People demand facts from Joe Am. There's a couple that mean a lot. Or . . . just look around . . .

  7. Anonymous says:

    More poor Filipinos = more ignorant votersmore ignorant voters = more trapos in public officeGet the drift?

  8. Attila says:

    Is it the Catholic Church alone or other churches also have the same agenda there? What about the Muslims in Mindanao?

  9. I get it, but don't buy it. I think overactive birthing is value-based, with values framed by the Catholic Church. Not manipulative, with values framed by politicians.

  10. Sharp question, as per usual. Only the Catholic Church engages government with loud rallies and speeches condemning those who support the Reproductive Health Bill. It actively pursues a political agenda that affects population growth. Muslims pursue an agenda seeking autonomy. Protestant churches largely mind their own business, recruit members, and grow . . .

  11. Attila says:

    Just wanted to know if other churches would be as powerful than would they behave just like the Catholic church?

  12. My personal guess is, yes, they would interject themselves in a strong way in politics. The Iglesia ni Cristo church is already engaged. But I don't think they would be as ardently anti-education, anti-women as the Catholic Church.

  13. brianitus says:

    I forgot where I read this idea: overactive birthing is a result of the survival instinct. People on auto-pilot do the strangest things. Kinda like this "We're poor and we're going to die from starvation for sure. Let's make a lot of babies to ensure survival."I'm not sure how the Church tells people to keep on making babies. I'm sure that they're pro-life but I'm not sure if they encourage people to keep birthing if they can't support it. They support abstinence, right? It's black and white. You don't want babies? Then don't have sex.All I know is that the Catholic Church is against artificial means of population control. It seeks to suppress information about artificial means and then wants to substitute its (ineffective) methods to limit the population.

  14. brianitus, well, yes, the Catholic Church does not tell its flock to go out and have babies. But the natural method is statistical, and pretty much assures that people will have lots of babies. As long as the Catholic Church believes a piece of rubber that blocks a chemical process is an affront to God, and that people should not be TOLD about the rubber, then the Church ought not to inject itself in politics, where people have to deal with the realities of what that means. The church IS partly responsible for the values and education and WEALTH of Filipinos, but denies it, as far as I can tell.

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