Combating Unethical Labor Must be Handled in Hand with Maintaining the Economy

By South China Morning Post at 3:26 PM 5/31/2020 (PDT)

ASEAN debates how to reduce the number of unethical laborers in international corporations, and an important point that comes up is how the economy of countries will be affected by this regulation. Countries like China want to tackle this problem but struggle to take aggressive actions due to the effect it would have on an economy heavily dependent on international corporations. It is disheartening to know that such a large part of the economy depends on inhumane work. However, it isn’t realistic to expect countries to immediately dismantle this structure.

This difference in thinking is what led to the splitting of the two blocs in ASEAN. One bloc, which focuses on education, are incredibly aware of the economic impact and so they’re treading carefully with small solutions like education. These solutions don’t dismantle the economic structure that unethical labor built. However, the other bloc focuses on larger changes like financial aid and stricter laws. These countries aren’t starkly different from their counterpart in terms of economic makeup or political systems. Yet, when asked about their fears on economic impacts, they say that they “are cognizant of it but it is a risk [they’re] willing to take.” It’s a little concerning of how flippant they are with something that impacts everyone’s life. They should weigh the obligations to the economy first, due to its long-reaching effects. Gambling with this is too much of a risk, especially when the backlash from international corporations is unknown. It would be much easier for them to leave the economies of these nations rather than to adapt to the new laws, since there are almost definitely other countries with lax labor laws. Unethical labor is an important issue, but is it worth pushing away international corporations for that?

The aggressive approach of the second bloc is too much at once. Instead, it is better to take smaller steps like China that don’t scare away international corporations. As much as stopping inhumane practices is important, sacrificing economies isn’t the way to do it.

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