In an opinion piece in The Guardian entitled “Child labor doesn’t have to be exploitation-it taught me life skills,” the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was caught supporting child labor. The Guardian omitted mention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation financing the piece from the article page shortly after it was widely published.
It is a form of child labor to do chores for your dad, so not all child labor is actually evil, says an article in The Guardian, published in a segment funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Friday.
Elizabeth Sibale, a Malawi-born woman who works for the multinational consulting company Palladium, wrote the controversial piece. In it, she promotes her childhood history of bringing water, cooking meals, and babysitting her younger sister to do hard work for her family as an example of work that helped her develop skills essential to adult life and character building.
Where do you draw the line between what is called a fraud abroad and a natural procedure for the transition of skills? “Wrote Sibale. “Local background is everything, except big organizations bringing kids to work.”
Today, contrary to common opinion, the majority of child laborers are hired by their parents rather than in the formal economy or production.
billionaire-funded ‘child labor is good’ takes has to be a new stage of capitalist dystopia pic.twitter.com/yfXOe6A1gJ
— Paul Gottinger (@PaulGottinger) November 6, 2020
The opinion piece was evidently based on conversations at a seminar held last month at Palladium (an International advisory and management company working with Governments and large businesses). It is hardly debatable that societies have different standards as to what job should be deemed acceptable for an infant.
The International Labor Organisation (ILO) notes that work carried out by a minor is only a form of child labor if it is harmful or interferes with education. How to handle dirt-poor parents, who keep their children out of schools because they are required to help the family, is the crux of the dilemma. Sibale and her colleagues say that when looking at household duties, westerners should be aware of their cultural prejudices.
However, the headline of the article and the logo of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which finances the “Economic Growth” portion of the Guardian in which it was written, did not help to encourage a complex discussion. It appeared to sound a lot like Western billionaires paying a newspaper to whitewash the repression of developing African countries for many people.
Learning life skills/family trade at your home while going to school IS NOT child labour. Being hired to produce tobacco/carpets/crackers due to nimble fingers, low agency, & missing school in the process IS child labor. There should be no opinion/debate on this topic, @guardian!
— Tanu Chhabra Bahl (@tancb29) November 6, 2020
Needless to mention, it is a monumentally tough challenge to put rural populations dependent on primitive farming out of poverty and into a condition where their children can be spared hard labor. As unschooled children seem to grow up to be unqualified adults, with little prospect of changing their lives for the better, economically speaking, the ILO finds schooling a vital part of solving the issue.
Sibale is a living testimony to the merits of education, according to her interview with the Malawi publication The Nation. Her family could afford to send her to college to pursue a degree as the seventh child of eight. It opened a career path for her in the national Department of Agriculture, a Ph.D. in the United States, and awards from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.