Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beer Girls

I read about a practice that I find appalling that is happening right now in Cambodia, and probably many other places. They're called beer girls, and the spend their evenings and nights working at the bar trying to sell their employer's brand of beer. That's not the disturbing part though. What really bothers me is that most beer distributors hire these girls from poor families with promises that they will earn plenty of money and be taken care of, and then throw them into the fray with less than an hour of training, and they are only paid for what they sell. This comes to an average monthly salary of US $55, which is less than half of what it costs just to survive. The girls are under heavy pressure by their employers to do anything that is necessary to sell the beer, and that means they have to drink with each of the men buying from her, often ending up very drunk at the end of the night. That also means that after working all night, drunk, knowing they will not be able to pay even for their rent, when the drunk men want to have sex with them for a better 'tip,' they frequently have to take such offers or risk becoming homeless and possibly even losing their job when the customer complains.

This is a despicable practice which is gotten away with by many of the brewers who make the most popular beers around the world, and probably by the brewer of your favorite beer. They avoid scrutiny by listing these girls wages as 'promotional' or 'advertising' costs and not disclosing that each of these $500-600 per year advertising costs are actually a persons entire salary. Because of these conditions, around 20% of these girls contract HIV/AIDS directly because of the job and with such low wages cannot afford treatment and die within 3 months to 2 years. Most of those who do are under 25 years old and are instantly replaced with casual disregard for their life and their family. What can we do about it? We can make this issue known to the public and not sweep it under the rug. We can tell these companies that we won't stand for slavery in the name of profit, and we can vote with our wallets. To find out if your normal beer company engages in this practice, visit the Beer Girls website at beergirls.org. For more information, case studies, and other research about the issue, visit FairTradeBeer's reports page.

1 comment:

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