The Fair Side of Economics

Imagine that you’re a coffee farmer in Guatemala. Your crop is your entire livelihood. The crop is exported to America and is sold at a fraction of what it’s worth. It’s an injustice like this that was the jumping off point for the idea of Fair Trade. Fairtradeusa.org defines Fair Trade as: a global trade model and certification allows shoppers to quickly identify products that were produced in an ethical manner. Simply paying farmers and workers in developing countries or poverty stricken areas, what their products are worth. The philosophy of Fair Trade operates around six basic principles:

-Fair prices and credit: Democratically organized farming groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price (or the market price if it’s higher) and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farming organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.

-Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions and sustainable wages. Forced child and slave labor are strictly prohibited.

-Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible to eliminate unnecessary middlemen and empower farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

-Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade premiums, which are funds for community development.

-Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarships, schools, quality improvement and leadership training, and organic certification.

-Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations (fairtradeusa.org).

With products available for purchase on the internet, it’s become even easier to join the Fair Trade movement. With the surplus available online through sites like serrv.org and tenthousandvillages.com/fair-trade, the sheer variety of products available is astounding. Coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa, fresh fruit and vegetables, sugar, beans and grains, flowers, nuts, oils ,butters, honey, spices, wine, clothing, body care products and spirits are just some of the products that can be purchased “Fair Trade certified”. The internet shopping arena along with the more than 50,000 retail locations across the United States have created a world of opportunities for the  farmers and workers who produce these goods to earn an appropriate wage for their labor.
The most impactful reason to buy Fair Trade products is because not only do the individuals earn the money they deserve for their work but so they can go out and stimulate their country’s own economy which in turn stimulates economies all over the world. So in reality, when you buy a Fair Trade product, you’re really helping your country and yourself. Fair Trade is not a program designed to help a few hundred farmers in a developing country halfway around the world. It actually benefits more than 1.2 million farming families in countries throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America (fairtradeusa.org). What started out as an organization to help farmers earn a proper wage for their crops has expanded to include certain types of craftsmen as well, like those who hand-sew sports balls and those who work in factories sewing apparel (fairtradeusa.org). With over 350 Fair Trade organizations in over 70 countries, it’s clear that this concept has taken off in a big way.
If you would like to purchase Fair Trade products you can find them on
serrv.org
fairtradeusa.org
handcraftingjustic.cedris.org
fairtrade.org.uk
tenthousandvillages.com/fair-trade
globalgoodspartners.org
and many more!

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The Soccer Ball Stichers

Imagine you’re seven years old, growing up in America. At that age, you’re biggest worry is probably whether or not there’s a Snack Pack pudding waiting for you in your lunch box at school. If you’re a seven year old growing up in Pakistan, for instance, you may have bigger worries. By the 1990s, 75% of the soccer balls produced in the world where made in the Sialkot District of Pakistan (globalization101.org).  It’s estimated that 7,000 children from 5-14 were involved in manually manufacturing the soccer balls (globalization101.org). Seeing as how it’s Youth Soccer Month, it seemed like the perfect time to remind everyone that this is still going on today.

It’s easy to let something like children sewing together pieces of a soccer ball for a wage slip through the cracks, when there are children being raped and murdered daily all over the world. That mentality, though, is a contributing reason to why there are 10 year olds kept out of school to work for a wage so meager it’s laughable . Even though spending 8-11 hours a day stitching together a ball might not be the worst thing that could happen to these children, it’s certainly deplorable and ludacris that in the year 2012, children aren’t being educated because they have to stay home or go to a factory to sew sporting equipment. The companies that these children are working for know that their products are being outsourced to the areas where they can find the cheapest labor. You can’t find a much better place than a city or country that is so desperately poor that they are forced to send their 5 year old to work so they are able to feed their family. These billion dollar companies need to be held accountable for taking advantage of these conditions.

Fortunately, steps have already been taken to eradicate the need for child laborers. Machine stitching has been able to replace child labor and companies like Saga Sports who make balls for Nike and others have started paying their employees a salary instead of per ball and have enhanced work conditions.That is a fantastic that improvements are being made, however, a huge problem still remains. The reason these children were manufacturing soccer balls in the first place was because they needed the money to help support their families. Now that that the soccer balls are being outsourced to different countries and sewn with machines, the income that these children once had is gone. What a perfect example of a double edge sword. On the one hand children shouldn’t be out of school, working 10 hour days but they may starve without that income for food. So what to do? I wish I had the perfect solution. Obviously, getting an education is important to provide for themselves and their families in the future, but while they are in school their family will still struggle.The closest thing to a solution I think would have to come from the governments in these countries. If they could lower the income gap, it would no longer be worth it to keep children out of school to work for practically nothing. However, that would require very corrupt governments to get on board. A more realistic solution would be for the companies outsourcing these products to simply up the wage they’re paying these children. The average price per ball they’re paid is 50 cents. If they paid even 75 cents to a dollar per ball, the children would only have to work half the amount of time to make the same money they need to feed their families. That might give them the chance to use that extra time to go to school. Unfortunately, it may backfire and children could be forced to work even longer hours to create even more income.

     Kids should be able to enjoy their childhood without the responsibilities of being an adult. They should be given the opportunity to go to school so they are able to help break the cycle of poverty that has them in the conditions their family is in. It shouldn’t be up to the kids to help financially support their families, the income their parents make should be enough. Therein lies the problem, when the economy is at a place where people aren’t trying to survive in a few dollars or less a day, then there is a chance that child labor won’t be seen as a necessity any longer.

To help the cause you can send a letter to FIFA using http://www.cleanclothes.org/campaigns/soccer-ball-stitchers-need-your-support or start a petition on Change.org. Signing an online petition might not seem like much, but big changes have been made with less. When companies see that their consumers find their business practices unacceptable to the point where it can affect their revenue, it’s amazing how quick they are to make changes.

By: Danae Zimmer