Alan Pogue There is, of course, a larger problem. This is the age of free trade and marketplace magic, both of which make possible ECO-NOMIC GROWTH. This is important because, in the logic of fiscal policy in Mexico, economic growth is the first priority, and the government continues to pursue “trickle down” growth policies although it has long been demonstrated that absolutely nothing worth having trickles down. In the official rhetoric, however, globalization is fundamental for prosperity because it provides increasing numbers of private sector jobs. In the last century, of course, slavery created millions of jobs throughout the Americas. And all in the private sector, too, which was extremely competitive in a global marketplace, even then. But the jobs were short-lived and unfortunately so were the people who had them. When we take a closer look at the jobs created in commercial agriculture in Mexico by expanded international markets, we must admit that these are not promising ca reer opportunities. The situation of the indigenous working children in Sinaloa is appalling for several reasons. First, the case shows that without enforcement, labor regulations mean nothing, and without regulation, there are virtually no limits to exploitation. Without controls, employers will literally work small children to death. Second, the problem is widespread. These circumstances affect 50,000 children under the age of fourteen in one Mexican state alone. In other words, such conditions are not produced by the practices of one or two irresponsible individuals whose pursuit of profits is overzealous. The situation is instead endemic; it is the rational end result of policies promoting trade and growth without explicit concern for social wellbeing. The private sector, left to its own devices, does not self-regulate; it pursues profits, and no profit is ever high enough. The value of the tomato crop alone exported to the U.S. from Sinaloa this past summer and fall will be over $450 million, and still children must be worked like this. Workers who are underage, hungry, abused, overworked, ill, and uneducated are not an unintended marginal consequence of an economic policy that, for the most part, provides good jobs, an improving standard of living, and a livable environment. On the contrary, they are the axis of the policy. They are where it ends if there is no countervailing influence. Investments go where the return is highest and the risk is lowest. Only when it is impossible to exploit like this because labor and education laws are established and enforced around the world, will there be stable, secure jobs with decent wages for adults and pencils, books, and blackboards, along with food, clothing, and shelter, for children. Gabriela Bocagrande works for an international agency. The Mexico City conference she described actually occurred and was not a creation of the writer. 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 4, 1998
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