Monday, April 18, 2011

Politics is much more fun south of the border

As I was reading Dan Drezner's attempt at taking the front runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination Donald Trump (of the Apprentice fame) a short while ago, I was struck by the sheer absurdity of American (in case you didn't figure it out by now) politics. And as a Canadian, I was jealous! For all the non-canucks (FYI Canuck= Canadian slang for the word Canadian) out there, let me put this into context. We Canadians are preparing to cast our ballots on May 2nd to vote in a new government (hopefully not another conservative minority or even worse a conservative majority), and are therefore being bombarded daily by radio and TV ads, facebook notifications and tweets (check out #elxn41 #cdnpoli) impressing on us to vote for this party or that. Yet, despite the election fever there is nothing going on in Canadian politics right now which is vaguely as impressive as the GOP presidential nomination race. Nothing!

This is definitely a good thing. Showmanship and politics should not go together, especially given the far reaching impacts of the legislative process. Still the inner child in me keeps wanting more excitement, at least in this election campaign. This is not to say that I am disenfranchised with the Canadian political system. I do plan on participating in the democratic process on May 2nd. But sometimes I feel that the political grass is indeed greener on the other side.

On second thought, it's better if the crazies remained on the other side.

P.S. Canada explained. For all the non-Canucks out there.

If you're young (18-24), Canadian and interested in screwing with the establishment, then vote on May 2nd (personally I would go for the Marijuana party, just think of how much money our economy would make). Rick Mercer explains why:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some thoughts on unionizing child labour in Pakistan

One of the ideas that I have been debating with myself over the past few months (I'm not exaggerating) is morality, feasibility and (potential) success of child labour unions as a way of dealing with the mass child labour crisis in Pakistan. Before I outline the reasoning behind my support for child labour unions (albeit very reluctantly), I would like distinguish between what I consider to be three types of child labour:

1)Vocational/apprenticeship: Children employed within a small business involving merchant, skilled labour or artisanal work (e.g. mechanic, shop keeper, carpenter, truck artist etc). Within this labour environment, children obtain skills and experience that can lead to further employment.

2)Domestic: Child employed in positions within the household, often as servants.

3)Mass Production: Children employed within industries involved in mass production such a factories, workshops and brick bhattis (mass production of bricks). Most people associate these industries with child labour.

From the above list, it is clear that: a) child labour is a broad term encompassing many different labour settings, b)child labour within Pakistan is prevalent across all levels of society and c) there can be no one solution when dealing with the child labour crisis in Pakistan and that a child labour ban in of itself is inadequate in dealing with this.

I first came across the idea of unionized child labour through this FP article describing child labour unions in Bolivia. The case for child labour unions can be summed up in this quote:

Unionized child workers and their advocates argue that because child labor is a necessity born of poverty, it can't and shouldn't be eradicated. But they want the government and NGOs to differentiate between child labor -- which they see as an economic necessity -- and exploitation, which is how they characterize children working in dangerous jobs, like mining, and harvesting Brazil nuts and sugar cane. "We need to focus on eradicating abusive work," says Jorge Domic, a child psychologist and director of social education at FundaciĆ³n La Paz, a Bolivian NGO. "If we propose to end all forms of child labor, we're not going to do it. We'll just have more clandestine labor in an even worse form than it currently exists." 
Within the Pakistani labour context, much of this is true. There are two major causes of the prevalence of child labour: poverty and lack of affordable access to education. Instituting a complete ban on child labour without tackling these issues is disingenuous to those suffering from it. Additionally, it is important to recognize the difference between exploitation and labour. Vocational/apprenticeship labour should not be dealt in the same way as domestic or mass production. Unionization is very important for this purpose. First of all, it will allow child labourers to bargain for fair wages and ensure safer working environments. Unions can also administer an institutional framework for education initiatives by providing members with access to schooling and literacy classes on a part time basis. Secondly, unions have the potential to reduce and even eliminate child exploitation in mass production labour settings by providing proper documentation for abuses and giving child labourers bargaining rights.   

There is a dark side to all of this as well. If child labour unions are officially recognized, then basically we are legalizing child labour in Pakistan. I'm will not deny that I am very uncomfortable with this idea on an ethical level. However, without  massive investment in job creation initiatives or affordable education, I don't see how this crisis is going away anytime soon. At least unionization, if implemented properly (this is key) has the potential to provide child labourers with protection within their workplaces. In the long run, unionization implemented with a child labour ban in certain exploitative industries (mining, carpet factories, brick bhattis) and government investments in job creation initiatives and affordable education can (hopefully) reduce the prevalence of child labour in Pakistan.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tweet of the Day

From @smokenfog

Dear Muslims, freedom of expression doesn't only revolves around burqa, it also covers right to burn any book u want & say whatever u want.

I agree! I find it very hypocritical that the many people who choose to identify themselves primarily  as "Muslims"  have no problem with using freedom of religion and expression to defend what they hold dear and opposing the very same values when it offends them. Either you are for freedom of religion and expression or you are not. Pick a side and stick to it!