Indian Kids Labor to Make Balloons for American Kids’ Parties

There is often a cruel and stark contrast between the lives of children in the developing world and the lives of children in America. Indian children as young as six work 12-hour days to make colorful latex balloons for just pennies a day. The terrible irony that party balloons for Western children’s celebrations are being made by kids the same age under abusive and exploitative working conditions is the stuff of Hollywood plot lines. But such child labor in factories is too real for children across India and around the world.

I urge you to check out the great photo essay on this subject here. In vivid and disturbing pictures, we follow the story of Czoton, a 7-year-old boy who works all day, every day, in a balloon factory in rural India. He and 19 other children work 12-hour days, 7 days a week, for about $2.14 per week. Conditions in the factory are harsh. The children work outside in the sweltering heat, unprotected from the elements. They inhale the dust and chemicals which can cause serious damage to their health. Because they work in the factory, they aren’t able to go to school.

It’s an unpleasant and unavoidable reality that Czoton and his fellow child laborers are making these balloons for us. Balloons from factories which exploit children’s labor are shipped to the U.S. and sold cheaply, to make other children happy. Children who grow up in privileged homes and those who grow up in unprivileged homes have unequal opportunities in a number of ways. The difference between laboring all day to make the trappings of a birthday party and being the recipient of a birthday party is just one of those ways.

If you’re a parent looking to start a conversation with your child about how other children around the world are less fortunate, sometimes child labor is a good place to start. Age-appropriate information about how some children are not allowed to go to school and instead much work long days can help kids better understand global inequality. It might even make school sound more appealing. One middle school in Texas even set up a simulated sweatshop to show children how the experience of toiling in menial labor compared to going to school and being free. Learning about how other children live can help kids become less narcissistic and more selfless.

Balloons are just one of many, many consumer goods that use exploited or enslaved children somewhere in the supply chain. If you want to start researching where the products you buy come from and whether or not they’ve been made by child labor or forced labor, check out the Department of Labor’s list of slave-made goods.


Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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