ow, my finger!
December 27, 2005 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in buying a rug from this company. The rug was handmade in India. I know forced child labor in rug manufacturing is a big problem in India. Is there any way of knowing whether a particular company's Indian rugs are made by exploited children? I emailed the company to ask, but it would be better to know independently.

Also, why should I care?
posted by thirteenkiller to Work & Money (6 answers total)
"Two years ago, the Indian carpet industry was jolted out of its complacency by the threat of a ban on carpet exports by the United States for engaging child labour. The US Harkins Bill was to be the instrument for implementing the ban.

While the industry claimed no child labour was involved in making the carpets, a section of NGOs along with the Indo-German Export Promotion Council (IGEP) and the U.S. Children's Fund (UNICEF) came up with the "Smiling Carpet" label idea to circumvent the threat."

it's not a guarantee but at least you might be able to sleep easier with that tag on the carpet. And no, I don't know of a source off hand that identifies participants in the label thingy...
posted by j.p. Hung at 10:33 AM on December 27, 2005

Are these new rugs designed to look like old rugs? I'm curious as that seems to be what you are getting. Is the price better with these? If no why not just get a 50 year old rug, even if there was child labor involved the child is long since grown?

In the hand knotted rug world, the finer the knots and therefore the rug, the tinier the hands it takes to tie each knot. Your typical, fine quality 8x11 rug Persian type rug will take a 9 or 10 year old girl one full year to make. The money that can be fetched by such a rug will feed her family for quite a while, however the working conditions will certainly cost her an education, if not her eyesight, and may cause her to develop rickettsia (though vitamin supplements are helping to end this scourge).
posted by Pollomacho at 10:49 AM on December 27, 2005

Also, why should I care?

If it has to be explained to you, you won't get it.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:13 AM on December 27, 2005

why should you care?

it's not clear to me that you should. maybe pollomacho's little girl didn't just feed her family but made it possible for another child to be educated.

and the idea that american politicians are, somehow, the correct people to be judging other cultures is wearing a bit thin these days.

on the other hand, if you have a choice of two rugs, which are both from the same community, and one involves child labour and the other not, it's hard to justify getting a kid to do the work.

so something like smiling carpet, or buying from companies that have ethical policies (in the uk, that might be oxfam shops, for example) seems to get you the best of both worlds. you continue to pay people in developing countries for work, but you also do so in a way that is less abusive.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:22 AM on December 27, 2005

you can find a list of companies selling rugmark branded rugs here (drop down) or here (full list). there's a lot, so you may be able to kil two birds with one stone - by somethig that you can actually see first, and do so without worrying about the ethical implications.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2005

For a kid in India I don't know if "exploited" is the correct word. We might call them exploited, but we are foreigners, and are prone to having peculiar ideas about other cultures.

If you spoke to the child, or their parents, they might prefer the word "employed". I have the impression that India is loaded with kids, hell, adults, who would dearly love to have steady work. That it is relatively light, clean, safe, indoor work is a bonus.
posted by Ken McE at 4:43 PM on December 27, 2005

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