Opinion Letter: Child Labor
According to the International Labor Organization there are approximately 250 million working children between the ages of 5 and 14. Somewhat around 120 million of them are performing in their jobs on a full time basis. Another half combines with school and other non-economic activities. Impressive numbers, aren’t they? The shame rising from incapability to manage this problem lies not only on developing Africa or certain Asian countries where child labor is most prevalent. Labor of minors eexists in industrialized and developed world as well. It includes the United States, Western Europe and many other advanced regions of the Earth.
How we should understand the work of minors that has to be abolished? What circumstances pushes towards? What would be the most appropriate way to fight work of children? To my mind these are the most essential questions that we have to understand addressing this issue. Therefore I will review these concerns and make some notices.
What is a cchild labor?
To answer this question we have to be aware what a child is. ILO Convention No.138 provides that the general limit is at 15 years, although under certain national circumstances it is 14 years old boy or a girl.
I wwas wondering whether voluntary decision of a minor to work easy job during the free out of school time to earn some pocket money is somehow contrary to the principles on the abolition of child labor. I came to a decision that there is nothing negative in this. Of course parents’ permition in such case would be appropriate, since children are not always able to make reasonable decisions. In reality work can be interesting and valuable for the child. If he or she works with enthusiasm and willingness, such practice in along run will strengthen child’s self-confidence, self-esteem, independency, responsibility and many other vital features that makes human being strong and competitive. During my yearly teenage I used to work iin several different jobs starting from easy ones and ending in a car repair service. I never regret that. All jobs I have chosen by myself in fields were I wanted to get some experience and knowledge. Of course it was not very legal from the side of the employer. Most likely own practice forces most strongly to claim that not all child labor is bad.
However sad it is, in most cases children are being forced towards decision to sstart working, quit schools. They are often mistreated, discriminated in the workplace. That creates the negative side of child labor which is prohibited and is illegal. Work becomes exploitation when children:
– work too young: start at 6 or 7 years (or even younger)
– work too long hours
– work for too little pay
– work in hazardous conditions (e.g. in mines, with chemicals, ect.)
– work under slave-like arrangements.
So accordingly, the mere fact of working child should not create a negative attitude at once. But unfortunately in most cases when children are being involved in work activities their health, welfare and development is threatened. Such phenomenon must be fought by all appropriate and necessary means.
Why children work?
Most often children are forced to work by the circumstances related to poverty. In worst cases families are not able to afford even primary school for their descendants. They have to work in order to supplement low incomes of their family. Employers welcome young labor force since children are being paid less, it is easier to exploit them and normally they demand nothing because are weak, vulnerable, both mentally and physically, and are afraid not only of employer but often of their family members as well, who may take drastic measures tto punish a child who lost the job.
Labor to overcome poverty is more common in developing countries where children work in agricultural and factory industries. But as a matter of fact such child labor contributes to the circle of poverty. In other words this working minor who never saw the doors of the school will grow up some day whose only perspectives will be low paid unskilled hard physical job or no job at all. It was recognized and stressed in the 1997 Oslo Conference on Child Labour, that “use of child labour slows down economic growth and social development <.> there is evidence that investment in human capital from early childhood, e.g., education and health, provides a society with a greater potential for economic and social development”.
Children often work under conditions of slavery for factory owners as a form of debt repayment. Such relations exist in South Asia, while in India it is quite it is quite common in agricultural sector. Children are often subject to extreme and hazardous workplace conditions. In agriculture they work on fields full of pesticides. In Tanzania they work on tobacco fields vomiting from nicotine poisoning. In Pakistan minors sharpen and polish surgical knives aand scissors inhaling poisonous metal dust.
Poverty perhaps is the main decisive factor why children work. However not the only one. A lot of kids are being kidnapped by human traffickers. Girls in most cases (but boys as well) are sold to the members of pornography industry. The industry performing not in a third world country. We are talking about well developed Western Europe, the U.S., Japan, where rich damned sexual gourmands spend their money to satisfy their freaky needs. It is hard even to understand for an ordinary man how young these children sometimes are.
Another example where kidnapped children find their destination is ...
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