CHINA

Luckily, school is compulsory till 16...

These photos have been the subject of much debate among Chinese bloggers. It's time, according to them, to get these young shoe shiners back into school. Read more...

Advertising

These photos have been the subject of much debate among Chinese bloggers. It's time, according to them, to get these young shoe shiners back into school.

The photos appeared on blogs and discussion forums (like this one). Web users were angered to see children aged 10 to 12 working as shoe shiners, when school is supposedly compulsory until the age of 16. One of our Observers, a specialist in social problems in China, comments on the photos.

 

Photos posted here.

"They [...] drop out of school, to pay for their brothers' educations"

Cai Chongguo, former leader of the Tiananmen Square protest, is today one of the editors of the China Labour Bulletin, an organisation specialised in the study of social problems in China.

Up until recently it didn't shock anyone to see children shining shoes on the street - it's everywhere. But then a few really bad child labour scandals emerged, getting everyone talking about it [for example, child coal haulers].

One particularly big one was the 'children of the lighter factory' story that emerged in summer 2007. Those children had actually been kidnapped from the country's poorest regions and put to work in awful conditions in a lighter factory. So Web users are quite sensitive about the subject now.

On these photos I noticed that most of the kids are little girls. That's not surprising, because they're usually the ones that that drop out of school, to pay for their brothers' educations, or healthcare for their parents who don't have health insurance.

In 2001 the law against child labour was reinforced. But we don't have any reliable statistics on the subject and it doesn't seem that the number of working children is falling, in fact it's the opposite. There are several reasons why the controls aren't efficient. One of the main ones is because the local authorities are often corrupt and so they turn a blind eye to it. Business owners are usually warned before inspections so they can get the children out of the building beforehand."