Child labour has been one of the most controversial issues for a long period of time. It is not only interesting but even urgent to discuss this topic as frequent as possible and consider various legal as well as ethical aspects. On the basis of ethical dilemmas concerning child labour, this paper aims at investigating employment methods and working conditions for children.
There are many different ways of how people may earn for living, and the idea to use children as the main source of work cannot be ethically supported. Even if child labour is regarded as economic necessity, children’s rights should be considered. It is possible to believe that work of child may be good to a certain extent, and society has to define the extent properly to avoid misunderstandings, legal and ethical problems, and losses.
In spite of its rich history, the question of child labour cannot be answered in a proper way; a number of issues like personal desire, necessity, and living conditions have to be taken into consideration; and even if child labour is considered as economic necessity, government and society should focus on the circumstances and prevent the development of child labour as unethical and frustrating aspect of human life.
Child labour is not a new issue still a number of controversies take place. The phenomenon of child labour is now regarded as “a general equilibrium framework of growth and development” (Strulik 547).
When people are asked whether they find child labour ethically justified, some people are ready to give their definite “No”, some part of interviewees admit that child labour is not that bad, and some people cannot find an appropriate answer. Gifford underlines that “children have worked for thousands of years on farms or as servants” (8).
The conditions under which children have to work during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century were terrible because no one want to devote their time and knowledge to protect children’s rights. The first legal attempt to define child labour and the conditions under which children could work was made in the 19th century: “the 1833 British Factory Act provided a template for other early industrializers on the continent of Europe, most notably Germany and France” (Hindman 46).
Taking into consideration such historical perspective, it is possible to forecast that the question of child labour would hardly be closed in the nearest future and people will be eager to find as many positive and negative aspects of such kind of employment as possible relying on their cultural backgrounds and social or ethical norms.
Child labour in different countries. Talking about child labour, it is necessary to admit that each country has its own particular attitude to this question. In some countries like India, families insist on the idea that their children should work. And the representatives of the American society cannot always support this idea and try to find the arguments to decrease the rates of child labour.
The reports of the International Labour Organization show that child labour ratings change considerably during the last decade, still, some countries have to pay more attention to this issue. For example, in Arab States, more than 15% of all children are labourers and millions of children from African countries are still the victims of the worst conditions of child labour (International Labour Organization).
Some nations find it effective to use children in order to solve some military conflicts and satisfy personal sexual needs. This aspect of child labour and inabilities to control the ways of how little children are used by society should become a solid argument of why ethics plays an important role in the theme discussed in the paper.
US attitude to child labour deserves certain attention because the conditions under which services and products are offered to people are connected to child labour and should be evaluated from an ethical point of view. For example, a person buys a product that was created by means of child labour.
Little poor children spend days and nights working at factories in order ordinary people could buy the necessary services and good. Is such purchase ethical? In fact, it is hard to give a clear answer to this question. Many US companies use services of children without considering any ethical issues and find it correct to use various methods to achieve best results and provide people with the required products.
Nesi, Nogler, and Pertile say that child labour became the issue of current debates in many undeveloped or poorly developed countries (1). However, the United States of America cannot be regarded as the country with a poor economic situation; vice versa, this country is one of the brightest examples of how countries should organize their activities and promote its development.
So, is it right for US companies to use services offered by children? From a pure ethical perspective, such actions cannot be supported. However, it is also necessary to admit that not all people are aware of the conditions under which the chosen products and services are offered. This is why some people are not simply aware of child labour and their participation in such kind of employment.
In other words, if a person is not aware about child labour, it is wrong to accuse him/her for ethical wrong behaviour and treatment to children. However, US companies buy and sell products created by means of child labour, and these companies are usually aware about the conditions of human work. There are many other methods of how to develop industries specially in such countries like the USA, and child labour should never be in the list.
Arguments for and against child labour. When US companies employ children in factories, they are guided by the following arguments. First of all, children get a chance to be independent and to earn for living. A child is free to choose the methods of earning money for living. Working children may have pocket money regarding their own possibilities. And finally, children who are in need may work to earn for food and help families.
However, at the same time, a number of arguments against child labour appear. First of all, government should pay more attention to the conditions under which children have to live. Childhood is the period during which children should enjoy their lives, learn something new, and be well-educated to become a worthwhile part of society.
Being an employee at the factory, an ordinary child could hardly get necessary education or improve his/her attitude to society. A kind of offence may be developed inside of a child and become a serious reason of why young people or adults take terrible actions like theft, rape, or even murder on the basis of assaults memorized from childhood.
Child labour as economic necessity. Some researchers admit that child labour may be ethical justified “due to the pressure of economic necessity” (Shukla and Ali 198). In the families with low income, some children are eager to be educated, still, it is impossible to find the necessary financial support.
This is why parents make their children work to earn for their education and appropriate living. So, on the one hand, child labour is caused by poverty and illiteracy. However, at the same time, people become unable to earn for living in a proper way because of the fact that they do not have proper education and their practical skills are not appropriate for some working places. This is why, on the other hand, child labour may become the main cause of human poverty.
And it is wrong to believe that some steps could be taken to make child labour an ethical practice because it is simply unethical until it is called child labour. Children should have a choice whether to work or to be educated. They should not suffer because of economic instability or family’s failures, and government should work out more programs and laws to fight against child labour.
In general, it seems like the question of child labour will never be analyzed to its full extent. There are many people who have different opinions on whether children have to work or whether it is necessary for government to think about other methods to overcome economic and financial difficulties.
Maybe, in the past, the idea to use children as working tools was justified due to the necessity to be developed and improved. However, nowadays, it is better to provide children with education and help them create innovations and use new products avoiding the idea of child labour. Children have their rights and should be able to choose. It is necessary to create some ethical boundaries within the employment questions and fight against the activities which cause doubts, sufferings, and poverty.
Gifford, Clive. Child labour. Woodbridge: Evans Brothers, 2009.
Hindman, High. The World of child labour: An historical and regional survey. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2009.
Nesi, Giuseppe, Nogler, Luca, and Pertile, Marco. Child labour in globalized world: A legal analysis of ILO action. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, 2008.
“Regions and countries.” International Labour Organization. 2011. Web.
Shukla, CK and Ali, S. Child labour and the law. New Deli: Sarup & Sons, 2006.
Strulik, Holger. “Child mortality, child labour and economic development.” Economic Journal 114. 497 (Jul 2004): 547-568.