Introduction means is that nearly all child labourers

 

Introduction to Child Labour

            Although the issue
of child labour is much more acute in the developing nations of our world, it
is important to understand that the mistreatment of children is a worldwide epidemic.

Child labour refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives
children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular
school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and
harmful.1 Legislation across the
world prohibits child labour. The question that immediately arises on this
subject is how large of an issue is this in developing countries? The answer
sadly is devastating, with recent statistics estimating that roughly 210
million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are currently working nearly full
time.2 To put that in
perspective, it is the equivalent of the total populations of Australia, New
Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, France,
Belgium, Austria and the United Kingdom combined. It works out to be about 18%
of the world’s children. However, the largest single group of working children
are those active in their parent’s business, farm, workshop, or other endeavour.

These are not represented in the statistics and are very rarely included in
macro studies. Even with focusing the study on children employed in paid work, research
is difficult and relatively scarce for the developing nations.

Child labour often involves
agricultural or industrial work, which often places children in very dangerous
working conditions. An even more pressing concern is that these children in
recent decades have also been subject to some extreme forms of violence, including
sex exploitation and trafficking and female genital mutilation. Child labour is
clearly a problem but what is most notable is where these children are living.

About 60%, so just under 130 million of these children are living in Asia, with
about 23% in Sub-Saharan Africa. What this means is that nearly all child
labourers are living in a developing country.

 

Economic and Cultural Reasons for Child Labour

            It is no
coincidence that there is a strong correlation between the status as a
developing country and the rate of child labour. “Child labour exists because education systems and labour
markets do not function properly, because poor households cannot insure
themselves against income fluctuations, and because perverse incentives exist
that create a demand for child labour”.3
In nations where economic opportunities are low, many
families have come to reply on the income earned by their children. For some of
these families, sending their children to work may be a matter of survival.

Part of the problem for these developing nations comes from the total costs of
industrialising and entering into global markets. Most developing nations can
only begin to industrialise and modernize their economy with the aid of foreign
developed governments in the form of extensive loans. Even after these loans,
with the nation being able to build up their economy, they now face the issue
of repayment and debt. Rather than being able to they new gains into their own
economy to stimulate jobs or social welfare programs to combat the poverty that
leads to child labour, all of the nation’s resources have to go towards paying
off their accumulated debt.

 

            Sadly, it is
not just economic factors that we have to worry about when concerned with the
issues of child labour. For these nations where child labour persists, it has
been an epidemic for a long time and therefore has almost established itself as
part of that nations culture. If we look back at the history of Britain, we can
see that we faced fierce opposition against these members of our population
that considered child labour a part of growing up towards the end of the 19th
C. It was only when The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Children (NSPCC) was founded in 18894 that the attitude towards
the treatment of children changed for the better. It was part of our British
culture back then and now these developing economies are facing the same issue,
with arguments made on both sides.

 

Effects of Child Labour

            Child labour
often exerts undue physical, social, or psychological stress. Children are kept
from education and the whole experience can cause detrimental effects to both a
child’s social and psychological development. The type of labour that the child
is involved with is the key determinant of incidences of work-related injuries.

Every year, an estimated 6 million work-related injuries occur among children,
this results in 2.5 million disabilities and 32,000 fatalities every year.5 This is because the environment
in which some of these children work is horrendous. 10% of all work-related injuries
are accounted for by crushing accidents, amputations and fractures.6 Not only are these
children at risk of physical injury, but they are also exposed to internal
injuries through workplace toxins and chemical hazards from the environment in
which they work.7
The International Labour Organisation refers to three categories of child
labour: non-hazardous work, hazardous work, and unconditional worst forms of
child labour. IN their findings, hey estimate that around 186 million children
(2000) under fifteen that are inveolved in non hazardous work. The definition
of this category allows up to 14 hours of work per week for children between 5
and 12, and up to 43 hours of work per week for children over twelve.8 Hazardous work includes
working hours more than these figures and a working environment that has, or
can lead to, adverse effects on the health or moral development of that child.

The estimate is that 111million children fall under this category worldwide. Children
may be exposed to high temperatures and a high risk of accidents caused by cuts
and or burns if they work in the brassware and the glass-bangle industry.

Children who work in firebox shops run the risk of burns and or an explosion.

Children who work to make carpets run the risk of inhaling hazardous fumes and
wool dust. These children do not have the same level of immunities as adults.

Their bodies are not as well adapted to dealing with these harsh environments
and so these exposures can be extremely costly to the health of these young
individual and in many cases has been fatal. “Using data derived from the Global Burden of Diseases
Study (GBDS), estimates of child occupational mortality rates by region were
found to be comparable with adult mortality rates, indicating that the
conditions in which children work are as dangerous as, or more dangerous then,
those in which adults work.”9

 

            However, not only does child labour effect
the health of that child but it also has an impact on the future of that child,
his/her ability to receive schooling and perform academically. These children
that are forced to work by their families do not hae the opportunity to attend school
because they no longer have the time. Even for those children that still manage
to find some time to attend school, the work that they do gravely impacts their
success and their future, they are not able to perform to even close to the
best of their ability, they are constrained. A research into 12 Latin American countries
has found that third and fourth graders who attended school and had never been
exposed to child labour performed 28% better on maths test and 19% better on
language tests than those children who would attend both school and work.10
Furthermore, the issue of child labour is mad more complicated due to the fact
that it creates a vicious cycle. A study in Egypt found that many men could not
find work due to their unhealthy condition as a result of the environment in
which they were working when they were children. For example, one of these men
had been made blind from working in pottery factories since he was very little.

This then put the responsibility onto his 8 year old son to provide for the family
by engaging in full-time work.11

 

Combating
Child Labour

            The ILO, UNICEF and the World Bank are trying to focus
their efforts on the worst forms of child labour, in an attempt to relinquish
hazardous working conditions for children. All three of these agencies, seek to
assist governments in developing policies and strategies, aiding in the
implementation of programs.­ In order however for us to be able to fully combat
child labour, we need to be able to implement laws, making it illegal for
children to work until they have reached a certain age. Furthermore, laws
should be brought in to ensure that once these young adults do enter work,
there are constrictions on the number of hours per day that they can legally
work, whilst also being paid the minimum wage. There needs to be a framework
for those people who wish to combat child labour with the backing of the
government.

            A reason for the existence of child
labour in the first place is due to the pervasive nature of poverty in these developing
economies. When a family lives in poverty, as discussed, the very often end up
sending out their children to work at a young age. The issue of poverty in
developing economies is pervasive and a difficult issue to resolve. However, by
being able to reduce poverty in communities, the support to those families
would mean that they would no longer have to send their children out to work.

            Thirdly, a stance towards greater
free education, with schools providing free meals and uniforms so that those
poor families do not have to provide the necessities that they cannot afford.

Education also widens children’s perspectives on life and shows them the broad
horizon which every child should have the opportunity to achieve. Without this,
children become closed off and begin to believe that their life can only
consists of long hours for poor pay in a poor working environment. Potential
brings development.

            From the developing world, we can provide
our support through ethical consumerism. By spending our money in the right
way, buying clothes from certain shops as opposed to others, giving some time
to investigate the companies from which you purchase goods, we are able to
avoid inadvertently supporting child labour. We can stop funding sweatshops and
other unethical businesses that are taking away the childhoods of young people
across the planet. We, as individuals, as to stop being seduced by saving
pounds on our purchases. We have to appreciate that these cheap prices come as
a result of employing children for incredibly small pay, excessively long hours
and in dreadful conditions.

            Finally, we can support the fight
against child labour through our support of those charities that fighting the
very same fight. For a lot of people, we cannot afford the time or are simply
not in the right place to actually go out and provide first hand support, but
monetary donations go a long way in these developing economies. Charities that
fight poverty and that provide education. These charities are working
carelessly almost every day, dedicated to tackling this issue and attempting to
abolish child labour all together.

 

Conclusion

            It is important to understand that
it is not just the issue of child labour which is a concern for children in
these developing nations of our world. Linked to child labour are the issues of
physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and child prostitution. Studies
from countries around the world suggests that up to around 80-98% of children
suffer physical abuse in their homes.12
Emotional abuse is that which impairs the child’s emotional moral development.

This may include threats, criticism and even the withholding of love, support
of guidance. Neglect is the pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic
physical and emotional needs. Sexual abuse may include kissing, inappropriate touching,
intercourse, incest, rape, oral sex or sodomy. “An overview of studies in 21
countries (mostly developed) found that 7-36% of women and 3-29% of men
reported sexual victimization during childhood, and the majority of studies
found girls to be abused at 1.5-3 times the rate for males. Most of the abuse
occurred within the family circle.”13
Child prostitution “involves offering the sexual services of a child or
inducing a child to perform sexual acts for a form of compensation, financial
or otherwise.”14 Worldwide,
approximately 1 million children are forced into prostitution each year, and it
is estimated that the total number of children in position is around 10
million. Child prostitution is not only a cause of death for millions of
children but is a horrendous violation of their rights. It negatively effects
their sexual health, causes major psychological harm and places them at risk of
increased violence in their lives.

            The issue of child labour is clearly
pervasive, evidently exceptionally damaging and all too extant in developing
countries worldwide. If it were an issue that could be resolved overnight, I believe
it would have been. We are limited in how much we can help this situation in as
much as we struggle to change the culture of these developing economies. We are
struggling to combat poverty and have been for decades. We struggle to
implement more stringent laws in some developing economies that are
decentralised and have patrimonial and absolutist states. But what we can do,
is we can be more ethically aware in terms of consumerism. We can donate to
charities that fund aid for developing economies. We need to improve
educational systems and provide financial incentives to poor families to send
their children to school. The solution to the issue of child labour in
developing economies involves an extensive and substantial effort from people
all over the globe. But with the support of our developed nations, and a
determination to ameliorate the issue, of course, I believe it will happen.

1

2

3 Rifaey, T.,
Murtada, M., and Abd el-Azeem, M. “Urban Children and Poverty: Child Labour and
Family Dynamics Case Studies in Old Cairo.” Accessed on 2 Janurary 2018.

 

4

5

6

7 Graitcer,
P., Lerer, L. “Child Labour and Health: Quantifying the Global Health Impacts
of Child Labor.” World Bank 1998. Accessed on 10 February
2011.

8

9 Graitcer,
P., Lerer, L. “Child Labour and Health: Quantifying the Global Health Impacts
of Child Labour.” World Bank 1998. Accessed on 10 February
2011.

 

10 Edmonds,
E., and Pavcnik, N. “Child Labor in the Global Economy.” Journal of
Economic Perspectives. 19.1 (2005). Accessed on 2 January 2018.

11 Rifaey,
T., Murtada, M., and Abd el-Azeem, M. “Urban Children and Poverty: Child Labor
and Family Dynamics Case Studies in Old Cairo.” Accessed on 2 January 2018

12 “Rights
of the child.” UN General Assembly. (2006). Accessed on 11 February
2011.

13 “Rights
of the child.” UN General Assembly. (2006). Accessed on 11 February
2011

14 Willis,
B., and Levy, B. “Child prostitution: global health burden, research needs, and
interventions.” Lancet. 359.9315 (2002). Accessed on 8 February
2011.

 

BACK TO TOP