Large Demand of Cobalt
How it works
“In this case, there are a lot of issues. Firstly, there is a large demand of cobalt. Because of the development of technology, smartphones or other electronic products are necessities in people’s daily lives. Most people have at least one smartphone. The technological companies improve the quality of their products and provide high quality products to customers in order to attract people to buy their products. And cobalt is a key element to produce lithium-ion batteries which can operate for longer periods and safely.
Besides, because of the climate change, people are concerned about carbon emission. Using electric vehicles could reduce carbon emission that could protect the environment. Therefore, automakers tend to produce more electric vehicles. However, one battery needs 18 pounds of cobalt which over 1000 times in the smartphone. The above are the factors cause a huge increase of cobalt’s demand. In additional, industries want to increase the supply of cobalt satisfy their customers to make profits. Therefore, they may hire child labors since the cost of child labor is very low.
Secondly, it shows an unfair trade. It seems that there is no substitute of cobalt. There is a shortage of it because of the reliance on single materials. Therefore, the market price of it is very high. According to the Blood, Sweat and Batteries, its price increased by about $34 a pound to $44 a pound in April 2016. A child labor dug out about 22 pounds, but he only earned $3.5 to $9 a day (Walt, 2018). It shows that child labor is exploited, and they cannot get a reasonable salary.
Thirdly, poverty and educational level are the main factors causing child labor. Child labors’ families have wrong values that they can jump into middle class if they become artisanal miners. They would prefer to send their children to be artisanal miners to earn money to support family that reduce financial burden. Since they are so poor, it is hard for them to afford the education fee. Many children cannot attend to the school. Their educational level would be low. The level of education would affect their future that they may not get a well-paid job.
Last but not least, there are some political problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo like corruption. Moreover, police and the provincial of Ministry of Mine only accept reporters to entry into one mine side, and they are only allowed to do reporting under surveillance by police. This shows the police knew the situation, but they ignore it. The supervision and enforcement of child labor laws in Congo are not enough.
There are a lot of stakeholders in above cases. Mining industries employ child labors and exploit them. Child labor should be prohibited by law. For Congo’s government, their supervision and enforcement of child labor laws are insufficient. Also, they have to protect the children like providing basic needs to them. Automakers and Technology companies, such as Apple, Samsung, etc, are the customers that purchase cobalt for producing batteries without asking about child labor. Their consumption supports the industries to continue using child labor. NGOs are concerned about this problem and they hope to find some ways to end child labor. Child labors work in mining industries for earning money. As they are very poor, they only can work instead of going to school. Their families cannot afford tuition fees and send them to work in mining industries. Child labor families think that being an artisanal miner can improve their economic level, so they send their children to work as artisanal miners. The reporters went to Congo to know the situation of child labor and report it to the world. People increase the awareness of it.
I think that the consumer is the main stakeholder to take responsibility for using child labor in the cobalt mining industry. The demand of products that is produced by cobalt is too many, and they are not concerned about whether the products include child labor. While buying products, many of them would not consider it. They are only concerned about the useful of products. If there is no reporter to reveal the face behind the mining industries, most people would not look into the problem. The problem would become more serious. Therefore, consumers should purchase things from a company after searching more information to confirm whether or not the company fulfills social responsibility or respect their employees. If they refuse to buy products made by child labor, the industries will not continue using child labors.
Apple and others should buy cobalt from countries where child labor’s usage is not wide-spread. Firstly, a child works in mining industry has a high probability of suffering from health problems. Government and the industries would not provide any safety equipment to their labor. Also, ores handling for long period affects children’s skeletal muscle development since weight of ores are too heavy. While digging ores by hands, it is easy for children to absorb heavy metal and retain it in their brains. Their developing brains will be affected. Besides, not only can they absorb heavy metal, but they also can inhale chemicals, carcinogens and dust. It causes respiratory disease, cancer, etc. These are bad for their physical and mental development. It leads to people to suffer from these diseases at a younger age. In addition, it is easy for child to get hurt without safety equipment. Some of them may die. It is dangerous for them to work there. Although children are injured in workplace, they cannot obtain any compensation. If Apple and others should take this course of action, the industries may not hire them to prevent them from suffering from health problems.
Secondly, not only is child labor illegal, but it is also immoral. Human rights of a child are ignored. Children should have right to attend school and enjoy their childhood instead of working. Therefore, the companies should buy cobalt from countries where child labor’s usage is not wide-spread to show their ethic. In order to earn money, industries may not use child labors. Although the cost of using them is low, a few customers would buy cobalt from them. It may be difficult for them to cover the expenses and operate the company. Therefore, they may not employ child labors to attract consumers who are concerned about child labors. As a result, children can enjoy their childhood and attend to the school to have high educational level which they can get a well-paid job to improve their living standard.
In addition, if Apple and other companies take this course of action, they can build a good image to people. While buying some products, customers may prefer to buy their products depend on their good image. The good image can attract more customers.
However, it is difficult to know whether the producers use child labor. The companies like Apple and others would not know while purchasing. They mainly focus on the quality of the cobalt. Although they conduct field inspection, the producer will have some strategies to prevent their customers from observing child labor. Therefore, it is difficult for the companies to know the actual situation and assure all the mining product without including child labor. Although it is hard to do so, it is necessary for companies to conduct field inspection to get more information of their suppliers.
There are three-pronged approach of the ICAC’s structure which are law enforcement, prevention and community education. Those help to combat corruption in Hong Kong. The officials in ICAC are professional. They combat corruption without favor or fear. Also, they do promotion to community to prevent corruption. Hong Kong citizens have an attitude with zero tolerance towards corruption. While Hong Kong citizens encounter the corruption, they will report it to ICAC through different ways like email, fax, phone, etc. Public cooperation helps ICAC to fight corruption. If one is complained, ICAC will do some survey to find evidence to prove the complaints. According to the website of ICAC (https://www.icac.org.hk/en/intl-persp/fighting/comprehensive-anti-corruption-laws/index.html), the ICAC is ensured to be independence and given powers of law enforcement by The ICAC Ordinance. For example, they have power of arrest, detention, search and seizure. Also, the punishment of corruption is very heavy that make the law effective that fewer people would become corrupt. If the complaint is correct, one would have maximum penalty with imprisonment for 7 years and a fine of $50000. The above are the ways ICAC helps to combat corruption in Hong Kong. Therefore, Hong Kong is the freest economy in the world for the 25th consecutive year in the Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Index of Economic Freedom.
If I were operating a Hong Kong based company, I would take some actions to ensure that no corruption takes place within my organization. For example, I would give information about corruption to my employee in order to tell them that advantage is accepted by agent without approval from employer, and act in relation to employer’s business. There is a heavy punishment that maximum penalty of this corruption is imprisonment for 7 years and a fine of $50000. Moreover, if there is no approval of acceptance of gift, employee should seek permission or help from their employer or human resource department. Besides, we have to avoid giving gifts to others since it can be identified as advantages. Therefore, they can identify advantages and entertainment to avoid corruption. After reading this information, employees can know more about corruption and how to avoid it. Also, we would organize talk with government to let them know the disadvantages of corruption. I think that employees may know that corruption is not allowed in our company. Everyone should supervise each other to prevent other from corrupting in our company.”