Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Work related deaths climb

The International Labor Organization reported on Monday that some 2.2 million workers die from job-related accidents and illness every year, and that the number is rising where employers and regulators skimp on safety measures in the mistaken belief that lower occupational health costs will boost companies' competitiveness. The ILO estimates that 22,000 children die at work each year.

The reported numbers almost certainly understate the problem. India reported 222 fatal work-related accidents while the Czech Republic, with a working population about one percent the size of India's, reported 231. The ILO pegged the real number of fatal accidents in India at 40,000.

China, where construction and low-cost production have powered economic growth, reported 12,554 fatal accidents in 2001. However, the ILO said the actual number of worker deaths in the world's most populous country likely was closer to 90,000.

The ILO blamed "rapid development and strong competitive pressures of globalization" for the upsurge in worker deaths, particularly in Asia. Since this globalization has largely been driven by recent free trade agreements such as NAFTA and GATT, these deaths must be seen as a call to reform international trade agreements to incorprate workers rights and environmental standards.


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