CHILD LABOR AND COFFEE IN GAUTEMALA
Agritourism is an attractive rural tourism sector that has helped Guatemala become a commercial tourism spot. The development of the coffee tours has helped strengthen the country’s cooperatives that run such programs and contributed to the inflow of precious foreign exchange. However, “the coffee tour echoes the themes of a larger ‘identity economy’ that has grown exponentially in the past decades,” says Comaroff and Comaroff (2009), in Lyon’ (2013), “Coffee Tourism and Community Development in Guatemala.” Sadly, while the tour is a booming business, the benefits are not evenly distributed among the residents and those who work in the farms. What has been most disheartening is that those who are attached to these farms have little or no chance of supplementing their income source.
In Guatemala, the central highlands are considered to be areas that offer expanded labor opportunities. Many people throughout the country migrate to the highlands in search of work. The labor options include working in poultry farms, construction, export promotion strategies, and agriculture. When primary income shocks occur due to crop loss, there is a significant increase in child labor,” say Beegle et al., (2006). When hit by such shocks, families try to supplement/increase their income by sending their children to work. “Children also substitute adult labor in household activities such as gathering firewood and water,” say Beegle et al., (2006). This has led to decrease in school attendance. While Guatemala is a relatively developing country, there is not much of industrial development and many families lived on credit rationing. While agritourism contributes to the government exchequer, it does not reach the families who so desperately seek alternative forms of income. The coffee business is also volatile and this has forced many farmers and those families dependent on it to send their children to work.
Given this situation, the government needs to encourage children to go to school by discouraging child labor and making education free for them. As children abstain from classes, they will only create a rift between the rich and poor as the will have no other option but to seek low-salary jobs after growing up. Cooperatives, which employ adults and children to work in their coffee farms, should be made accountable for such practices and families dependent on these cooperatives must be provided with a healthy compensation. If children are made to study and attend classes in schools, they will be become far more knowledgeable and contribute in a much better way to their families and country. With jobs, these educated adults will pay taxes that can be used by the government to improve the infrastructure and industrial sectors. Also, the quality of life will improve considerably as they work in offices and are paid much higher than what they were paid as child labors.
Workers rights have been constantly violated by authorities in Guatemala. The cases of workers suffering a series of human and labor rights violations at the hands of authorities is quite common in Guatemala. These violations include, low pay, unfair dismissals, extended work hours without overtime pay, and child labor.
Guatemala can become a better country to live and work in provided, the government and other societies that run the various government and non-government sectors bring to an end to the embezzlement, corruption and impunity plaguing the municipality and other governmental and public societies. Also, if the human rights and labor rights of the people of the country improves, Guatemala can become a fairly good country to live in. The government needs to change their internal and external policies to attract foreign investors who could generate more employment opportunities for the Guatemalans. This will not only improve the economic condition of the country, but will also ensure that infrastructural developments take place there, which is desperately required.
Beegle, K, Dehejia, R, H and Gatti, R, (2006), Child labor and agricultural shocks, Journal of Development Economics, 81(1), p. 80 – 96
Comaroff, J and Comaroff, J, (2009), Ethnicity Inc. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lyon, S, (2013), Coffee Tourism and Community Development in Guatemala, Human Organization, Society of Applied Anthropology, 72(3), ISSN 00187259, p.188–198