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  Issues: Spotlight on Child Labor  

An entrenched culture of child labor is the shameful foundation of Kanchipuram's world-renowned silk industry. Approximately 60 percent of school-aged children--numbering nearly 40,000-work full-time in that city's silk looms. Despite national legislation that prohibits this manner of child labor,boys and girls as young as five years old are forced to sacrifice their childhood: their health, happiness, education, and potential.

Silk loom owners pay poor families a large lump sum of money in exchange for enlisting their children as low-wage laborers. For many families, this is the only opportunity they will have to receive such a large amount of money. The families are almost never able to repay the original cash advance. As a result, many seek new loans from the loom owners, thus bonding their children into labor far into the future.

Furthermore, many of these families do not value education or the developmental benefits of the school experience. Without encouragement from parents, even children interested in school are far more likely to work instead. For the same reasons, families that operate their own looms often recruit their own children as full-time laborers.

Like many rural poor, the families of child laborers face considerable obstacles to achieving economic self-sufficiency. Chief among these obstacles is the lack of available credit. To receive credit, the rural poor must travel to distant locations, bridge cultural and socio-economic gaps between themselves and bank officers, and overcome the perception that they will be unable to repay their loans.

The conditions that force children into bonded labor thus fixes generations in a vicious cycle of poverty. As UNICEF's 1997-98 State of the World's Children report concluded, "Poverty begets child labor begets lack of education begets poverty." To find out what RIDE is doing to combat child labor and address these issues, click here:
Fighting child labor abuses

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