This is “End-of-Chapter Questions and Exercises”, section 9.7 from the book Challenges and Opportunities in International Business (v. 1.0). For details on it (including licensing), click here.
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These exercises are designed to ensure that the knowledge you gain from this book about international business meets the learning standards set out by the international Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business website, accessed January 26, 2010, http://www.aacsb.edu. AACSB is the premier accrediting agency of collegiate business schools and accounting programs worldwide. It expects that you will gain knowledge in the areas of communication, ethical reasoning, analytical skills, use of information technology, multiculturalism and diversity, and reflective thinking.
(AACSB: Communication, Use of Information Technology, Analytical Skills)
(AACSB: Ethical Reasoning, Multiculturalism, Reflective Thinking, Analytical Skills)
The standards of the legal minimum age for employment vary in different countries due to their different circumstances. Nike got skewered in the US press and public opinion when a photograph showed a twelve-year-old Pakistani boy sewing a Nike soccer ball. But a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) alumnus from Pakistan who interviewed boys making soccer balls for Nike in Pakistan discovered this: “In Pakistan, the reality is that the 14-year-old’s father may be a drug addict or dead, and his mother may have 10 other children to raise. As a 14-year-old, he represents the family’s best earning potential.”Thomas A. Kochan and Richard Schmalensee, Management: Inventing and Delivering its Future (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 72–73. To deny the fourteen-year-old boy the ability to earn wages to provide for the family is age discrimination. Indeed, the company could be sued. The notion that a fourteen-year-old is “too young” to work and that working is “not in the best interests of the child” must be tempered by knowledge of the local conditions and the true alternatives facing fourteen-year-olds in developing countries. Sewing soccer balls at fourteen may be damaging to the eyes, but what if the alternative is selling one’s body?
An MIT alumnus from Brazil expressed similar views: “In Brazil, a 14-year-old is not the same as a 14-year-old in the U.S. In the U.S., 14-year-olds have the alternative of going to school. After school, maybe they play sports or take music lessons. In Brazil, it’s better to be working a part-time job at 14 than to be on the streets and be offered drugs. Limiting the worker age to 16 makes sense for the U.S., but not for Brazil.”Thomas A. Kochan and Richard Schmalensee, Management: Inventing and Delivering its Future (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 72–73.
How would you handle a situation like this? If it were legal for one of your suppliers to hire children as young as twelve years old, would you let them? Would you ask them to adhere to the US minimum-age standard of sixteen? Is it even your business to tell another company what to do? How might your decision impact your reputation in the United States? How might your actions impact the people in the country where your supplier is located? Can you think of ways to make the hiring of younger workers more palatable to US stakeholders?