Thursday, August 26, 2010

The "ethical" nature of Western companies

A while ago one of our clients, before assigning a job, explicitly told me that they wouldn't allow child labour in India for their jobs.

Of course this high noted and important condition is a give-away for us. Not many children are able to do the computer work we do. As a consequence direct child labour in our offices is unthinkable. In this respect I can just declare everything on a formal paper, so that the 'ethical' need of our client is satisfied. This formal declaration probably lands on a Western desk and will be used for all kinds of marketing purposes.

At the same time however, when you analyse this condition and what's behind of it, the picture isn't so clear any more:
- the ethical condition this client poses doesn't lead to a choice to pay more for the services, at any time he will choose for the cheapest service provider, probably also forced by the current economical crisis going on;
- though direct child labour is easily avoided in our kind of services, the jobs go within India to the lowest possible salaries and the cheapest employees whenever applicable. These employees are all parents. They have to feed their kids and try to collect enough money for their education;
- to be able to do this for their own kids, they lay a high financial pressure on the lower social classes providing services for them; often it leads to a situation where the children in these social classes don't receive any formal education any more and even are forced to do all kinds of low paid jobs to support their family. At the bottom - and I'm talking here about at least 50% of the Indian population - there's only poverty;
- even the lifes of what we could call the social middle-classes is in India always at the edge, and nowhere comparable to what we call 'middle-class' in West.

The whole capitalist system with its typical financial cascade of degradation towards the lower classes is producing poverty and inhuman situations in a structural and systematical way.
This system is invented, implemented and refined by the West and all companies participating in it.

To limit this issue to a formal declaration of the very specific moral objection of 'no child labour' and using the same for marketing purposes in any way, is highly hypocritical and opportunistic. It only serves the own targets.

I include some photographs taken in Gurgaon at a walking distance from our office.
I think I'll never get used to this, neither do I know how to handle it.

Perhaps I should go and ask the people in the pictures to sign me a formal statement that they won't do bad things to the pigs, dogs and cows who live with them on the waste belt, before I let them process my own waste.






2 comments:

CA Amit Mittal said...

Hi Tony,
you are close to hitting the nail on the head. The western hypocrites are looking for ethical businesses who can work for them on absurdly low prices, whereas the ethical Indian businesses are looking for enough courage to turn down the business proposal which are way below the viable limits. I trust that such initiatives would at least stir some souls and minds and can help in forming an opinion.

Tina said...

Let’s all Stand Up against poverty in 2010.I am supporting this campaign & would like you to do the same. You can join the campaign on http://www.facebook.com/unmcampaignINDIA & http://twitter.com/unmcampaignIND