Third World Realities versus International Labor Standards

You can imagine the headline, “Evil Corporation Forces Pregnant Women to Work in the Fields Under Tropical Sun,” followed by a call for international labor standards. Here’s the reality of it:

Yesterday I was talking to a farm manager here in Honduras. He told me that he noticed heavily pregnant women in the planting teams. Concerned about the risk to the unborn children, he told them that they shouldn’t be doing that work, and that they should go home. But they pleaded with him to let them stay: the work was their families’ only income.

Okay, he said, you can work, but you can have an extra two hours to fulfill your quota. No, they said, we have to go home to cook and look after the house. So they continue working just like everyone else.

If they can’t buy food then that puts the unborn child at even more risk. The fact is that poor people in the developing world have to make tough choices. If we impose what we believe are acceptable standards, deciding we know best, then we deprive them of those choices. Besides, when a rich world, pregnant ballet dancer carries on working, she is criticized or applauded, but not regulated out of a job.

Honduras is portrayed as being full of criminals and victims. It’s actually full of heroes.

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