Schmitz and fellow author define child labor as “the employment of children at regular and sustained labor”1. The issue of child labor has been a source of heated debate in many countries.
While critics argue that it is an inappropriate and exploitative act, a few of the people who support the act think it is important for children to be taught independence at an early stage. Many countries have banned the act and many international organizations consider it exploitative.
Child labor has been existent for as long history can record. “It has was employed to varying extents through most of history, but entered public dispute with the advent of universal schooling, with changes in working conditions during the industrial revolution, and with the emergence of the concepts of workers’ and children’s right” 2.
Perhaps the work form of child labor was recorded during the industrial revolution when children as young as five years old were employed in processing factories. There they worked with adults in equally dangerous and sometimes fatal working conditions. In Scotland for example, more than two thirds of the workers in the cotton mills during the mid to late 1780s were children.
During the 19th century, one on every three poor homes was without a bread winner due to the high number of deaths. This meant that children had to work to support themselves and younger siblings. Coal mines were also popular during this time and companies employed many children since the tunnels were too small for children to crawl.
Based on this understanding, almost all the rich nations today consider the issue a violation of human rights. Unfortunately, most poor countries are yet to confront the issue comprehensively while children continue to suffer in tasks that their age does not allow them to handle.
“UNICEF estimates that 250 million children aged 5 to 14 years old are still in child labor worldwide, excluding child domestic labor” 3. It is not until recently that psychologists started providing reliable information on the effects of child labor. From the views of different stakeholders, it is clear that there are very many negative effects. However, few people still support this act with a few reasons.
It is argued that letting children provide for themselves or their families at an early age teaches them responsibility. It countries where poverty is rampant, many homes have one or both parents missing as a result of death or abandonment. In such cases, children need to learn how to take care of themselves and cater to their needs. Medical care in poor nations is not easily available.
This means that when parents are sick, employed children are able to provide the most basic needs such as food through their wages. Another argument for child labor is that it keeps poor children from engaging in more dangerous professions such as prostitution.
The negative effects of child labor are many and disheartening. First and foremost, child labor deprives children of a proper and normal childhood. Time meant for playing and developing psychologically is spent working. Another effect is physical and mental torture.
While adults’ body and minds may adapt to working a number of hours a day, children’s bodies and minds have no ability to adopt to an arranged schedule. Furthermore, their bodies are not well developed for some of the manual jobs that they engage in.
Child labor causes children to become emotionally and mentally mature earlier than they ought to, a situation that could lead to more problems in future. These children tend to make major decisions such as getting married or getting children too early and are not able to relate to situations they find themselves into thereafter. In places where child labor is still practiced, it is evident that it perpetuates poverty.
Children quit school to work and the wages they receive are not able to sustain any form of development. As a result, a cycle of poverty develops from one generation to another. Finally, child labor condemns children to lives of unskilled and unsustainable work.
Without any form of qualifications, they are not able to develop any form of professionalism. They are forced to depend on manual jobs for the rest of their lives, ultimately leading to child labor in each generation, more poor children and more communities with undercutting wages.
From the arguments, it evident that the negative effects of child labor largely outweigh any positive argument that could exist. It is wrong and detrimental to innocent children who can be supported to develop their talents, potential and dreams. It harms children’s bodies, future, minds, hopes and spirits. While children are supposed to be playing and enjoying being young, child labor ties them to toil and torture.
These children are unable to have a normal life after such experiences. They are unable to go to school and therefore, they have no way out of poverty. This results in continued cycles of struggles and inherited poverty for generations that follow. More countries, activist organizations and individuals should support measures that discourage child labor such as the proposed boycott of all products made by children.
Even though the moral complicity of the public over this issue has raised many concerns, boycotting the products this will serve as lesson to the producers and force them to employe people who are considered legible for employment by the law.
“There are hundreds of millions of children and young people around the world who are imprisoned, not in physical jails, but in a state of bondage more permanent than locks or bars alone could create” 4. The situation is particularly wanting in poor and developing nations. Lack of basic needs and poor wages at work forces children to send their children to work in an effort to have a bigger family income.
The effects are extremely damaging to their bodies, minds and spirits. Parents, institutions and all other stakeholders have a role to play to ensure that the practice is brought to an end. Children have a right to be protected and have their talents and dreams supported.
Furthermore, every member of the UN should work consistently by implementing proper laws and regulations in line with the UN’s stand on the issue.
Article 32 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that “States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development” 5.
Baland, Marie and James Robinson. “Is Child Labor Inefficient?” Journal of Political Economy 108 no. 4 (2000): 663-679.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Convention on the rights of the child, 2011. Web.
Schmitz, Cathyne and Desi Larson. Child Labor: A Global View. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004.
UNICEF. Beyond child labor: Affirming rights. 2011. Web.
1Cathyne Schmitz and Desi Larson, Child Labor: A Global View (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004), 44.
2Marie Baland and James Robinson, “Is Child Labor Inefficient?” Journal of Political Economy, 108 no. 4 (2000): 663.
3UNICEF, Beyond child labor: Affirming rights.
4UNICEF, Beyond child labor: Affirming rights.
5Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Convention on the rights of the child, 2011.