ASEAN Pushes for Education in Fight Against Unethical Labor

By South China Morning Post at 3:24 PM 5/31/2020 (PDT)

Unethical labor is prevalent all around the world, especially in large international corporations. Due to its nature, it’s important that countries work to reduce the number of laborers who live in these situations. Yet, it is difficult to balance that duty with the economic duties that tie governments to private international corporations. As countries discuss how to combat unethical labor, a solution that many are pushing for is education.

Education as a solution means educating consumers about the conditions that the laborers are in, educating laborers about their rights as workers and increasing literacy rates of children through establishing schools. According to China, this is a good solution because it “can serve as a less aggressive solution, that can preserve economies and jobs while combating unethical labor slowly.” How does it do this though? According to Nepal, educating workers “allows people to know their rights and understand the contracts they sign, making it less likely for them to be victims of unethical labor without knowing.” Beyond the education of workers, the countries also hope to stop the situations that make people go into unethical work. If countries can educate more children, it increases literacy rates which is especially important in Laos where “many Southeast Asian citizens are illiterate, decreasing the amount of jobs available to them and allowing them to be more subject to exploitation.” The existence of a classroom also prevents children from going into unethical labor, since according to Papua New Guinea, it “gives children a safe place to learn and grow, keeping them out of hazardous working conditions”. If more schools can be built, less children could be tempted to make work in unethical places.

These are the reasons that a working paper has been drafted that focuses solely on this solution. Countries like China, Vietnam, and Papua New Guinea formed this bloc because these countries depend on international corporations for their economy. They want to address this problem but as Vietnam said, “not in a way that endangers countries’ partnerships with private companies”. Aggressive solutions aren’t possible without disrupting the economy, making education perfect for this group of countries. Due to its non-intrusive nature and ease of implementation, the countries can hope to affect change through education. Education hopes for large change later by bringing subtle changes now.

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