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Child Labour and Ethics

How would each of you deal with the following hypothetical situation, and the ethical issues it raises?

You have just been hired to run a medium sized clothing company that manufactures offshore, and wholesales low cost t shirts in North America. The company is barely keeping its head above water financially, and in these economic times raising prices is not an option to ensure survival.

Your North American distribution centre is located in a very high unemployment area, and if the company closes, the prospects for the workers there are bleak. There are no further savings to be made in the import and distribution areas.

You are surprised to find that all the shirts are manufactured at a run down facility in an African nation that you would be unable to locate on a map, and the labour force are virtually all between the ages of 10 and 15. Your in country manager tells you that it is too expensive to hire adults, and they will not work for the wages that the children are paid, even if there is no other work.

When you further research what is going on, you find there is no other meaningful employment in the region, and in most cases these children are providing the only income for their families. The local children who do not work in the factory spend their days searching the local rubbish tip for scrap and discarded food. The authorities in the country are indifferent to the situation. You find that by the standards of the region, the wages being paid are fair for workers of that age.The children would still work if you halved their wages, they have no alternatives.

What do you do?

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