Child labor

Child labor

Child labor is the employment of children at regular and sustained labour. This practice is considered exploitative by many countries and international organizations. Child labour was utilized to varying extents through most of history, but entered public dispute with the beginning of universal schooling, with changes in working conditions during industrialization, and with the emergence of the concepts of workers' and children's rights. Child labour is still common in some places where the school leaving age is lower.


Child Labor is very common, and can be factory work, mining [cite web
title=Child labor in Kyrgyz coal mines
work=BBC NewsChid labour is legal in many countries however many people won't believe it.
] , prostitution quarrying, agriculture, helping in the parents' business, having one's own small business (for example selling food), or doing odd jobs. . Some children work as guides for tourists, sometimes combined with bringing in business for shops and restaurants (where they may also work as waiters). Other children are forced to do tedious and repetitive jobs such as: assembling boxes, polishing shoes, stocking a store's products, or cleaning. However, rather than in factories and sweatshops, most child labor occurs in the informal sector, "selling many things on the streets, at work in agriculture or hidden away in houses — far from the reach of official labor inspectors and from media scrutiny." And all the work that they did was done in all types of weather; and was also done for minimal pay.cite web
title=The State of the World's Children 1997

According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 250 million children aged 2 to 17 in child labor worldwide, excluding child domestic labor. The most widely rejected forms of child labor include the military use of children as well as child prostitution. Less controversial, and often legal with some restrictions, are work as child actors and child singers, as well as agricultural work outside of the school year (seasonal work) and owning a business while operating it out of school's hours.Fact|date=August 2008

Children's rights

The United Nations and the International Labor Organization consider child labor exploitative, [cite web | title=Worst Forms of Child labor Recommendation, 1999 | work= International labor Organization | url= | accessdate=2006-10-05] cite web | title=Convention on the Rights of the Child | work=United Nations | url= | accessdate=2006-10-05] with the UN stipulating, in article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 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."

In many developed countries, [cite web | title=Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child | work=Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights | url= | accessdate=2006-10-05] it is considered inappropriate or exploitative if a child below a certain age works, excluding household chores or schoolwork. An employer is often not allowed to hire a child below a certain age. This minimum age depends on the country; child labor laws in the United States set the minimum age to work in an establishment without parents' consent and restrictions at age 16.

During the Industrial Revolution, children as young as four were employed in production factories with dangerous, and often fatal, working conditions.E. P. Thompson, "The Making of the English Working Class", (Penguin, 1968), pp. 366-7] Based on this understanding of the use of children as laborers, it is now considered by wealthy countries to be a human rights violation, and is outlawed, while some poorer countries may allow or tolerate it.

In the 1990s every country in the world except for Somalia and the United States became a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or CRC. The CRC provides the strongest, most consistent international legal language prohibiting illegal child labor; however it does not make child labor illegal.

Poor families often rely on the labors of their children for survival, and sometimes it is their only source of income. This type of work is often hidden away because it is not always in the industrial sector. Child labor is employed in subsistence agriculture and in the urban informal sector; child domestic work is also important. In order to benefit children, child labor prohibition has to address the dual challenge of providing them with both short-term income and long-term prospects. Some youth rights groups, however, feel that prohibiting work below a certain age violates human rights, reducing children's options and leaving them subject to the whims of those with money. The reasons a child would consent or want to work may vary greatly. A child may consent to work if, for example, the earnings are attractive or if the child hates school, but such consent may not be informed consent. The workplace may still be an undesirable situation for a child in the long run.In an influential paper on "The Economics of Child Labor" in the "American Economic Review" (1998), Kaushik Basu and Pham Hoang Van argue that the primary cause of child labor is parental poverty. That being so, they caution against the use of a legislative ban against child labor, and argue that should be used only when there is reason to believe that a ban on child labor will cause adult wages to rise and so compensate adequately the households of the poor children. Child labor is still widely used today in many countries, including India and Bangladesh. Even though the respective national laws state that no child under the age of 14 may work, the law is often ignored. Children as young as 11 go to work for up to 20 hours a day in sweatshops making items for US companies, such as Hanes, Wal-mart, and Target. They get paid as little as 6.5 cents per item produced.Fact|date=September 2008

Campaigns against child labor

Child labor was approached from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. For example, Karl Marx called for "Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form" in his Communist Manifesto. Concern has also been raised about the buying public's moral complicity in purchasing products assembled or otherwise manufactured in developing countries with child labor. Others have raised concerns that boycotting products manufactured through child labor may force these children to turn to more dangerous or strenuous professions, such as prostitution or agriculture. For example, a UNICEF study found that 5,000 to 7,000 Nepalese children turned to prostitution after the United States banned that country's carpet exports in the 1990s. Also, after the Child Labor Deterrence Act was introduced in the US, an estimated 50,000 children were dismissed from their garment industry jobs in Bangladesh, leaving many to resort to jobs such as "stone-crushing, street hustling, and prostitution," -- all of them, according to a UNICEF study.cite web
title=The State of the World's Children 1997
] "more hazardous and exploitative than garment production". The study says that boycotts are "blunt instruments with long-term consequences, that can actually harm rather than help the children involved."

Today there are several industries and corporations which are being targeted by activists for their use of child labor.

Recent child labor incidents

Primark have again come into the news for their use of child labour in the manufacture of clothing [] . In particular a £4.00 hand embroidered shirt was the starting point of a documentary produced by BBC's Panorama program. The program asks consumers to ask themselves "why am I only paying £4 for a hand embroidered top? This item looks handmade. Who made it for such little cost", in addition to exposing the violent side of the child labour industry in countries where child exploitation is prevalent. As a result of the program, Primark took action and sacked the relevant companies, and reviewed their supplier procedures.

The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company operate a rubber plantation in Liberia which is the focus of a global campaign called Stop Firestone. Workers on the plantation are expected to fulfill a high production quota or their wages will be halved. As a result, many workers are forced to bring children to work. The International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Firestone (The International Labor Fund vs. The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company) in November 2005 on behalf of current child laborers and their parents who had also been child laborers on the plantation. On June 26, 2007, the judge in this lawsuit in Indianapolis, Indiana denied Firestone's motion to dismiss the case and allowed the lawsuit to proceed on child labor claims.

On 21st November 2005, An Indian NGO activist Junned Khan, with the help of Police, Labour Department and NGO Pratham mounted the country's biggest ever raid for child labour rescue in the Eastern part of Delhi, the capital of India. The process resulted in rescue of 480 children from over 100 illegal embriodery factories operating in the crowded slum area of seelampur. For next few weeks, government, media and NGOs were in a frenzy over the exhuberant numbers of young boys, as young as 5-6 year olds, released from bondage. This rescue operation opened the eyes of the world to the menace of child labour operating right under the nose of the largest democracy in the world. Today everyone knows that Delhi employs thousands of young children illegally in businesses like zari (hand embroidery), leather bag making, lakh (metal studding), artificial and real jewellary.

On October 28, Marka Hansen, president of Gap North America, responded, "We strictly prohibit the use of child labor. This is a non-negotiable for us – and we are deeply concerned and upset by this allegation. As we’ve demonstrated in the past, Gap has a history of addressing challenges like this head-on, and our approach to this situation will be no exception. In 2006, Gap Inc. ceased business with 23 factories due to code violations. We have 90 people located around the world whose job is to ensure compliance with our Code of Vendor Conduct. As soon as we were alerted to this situation, we stopped the work order and prevented the product from being sold in stores. While violations of our strict prohibition on child labor in factories that produce product for the company are extremely rare, we have called an urgent meeting with our suppliers in the region to reinforce our policies." [ [ Gap Inc. - Media - Press Releases ] ]

In early August 2008, Iowa labor commissioner David Neil announced that his department had found that Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking company in Postville which had recently been raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, had employed 57 minors, some as young as 14, in violation of state law prohibiting anyone under 18 from working in a meatpacking plant. Neil announced that he was turning the case over to the state Attorney General for prosecution, claiming that his department's inquiry had discovered "egregious violations of virtually every aspect of Iowa’s child labor laws." [ Inquiry Finds Under-Age Workers at Meat Plant ] . Agriprocessors claimed that it was at a loss to understand the allegations.

Child labor is used in the production of cocoa powder, used to make chocolate. See Economics of cocoa.

Milton Friedman's defense of child labor

According to economist and capitalist Milton Friedman, children's participation in economic activity was commonplace prior to the Industrial Revolution as children performed labor on their farms or for their families. Friedman, claimed that the Industrial Revolution saw a net decline in child labor, rather than an increase.Friedman, Milton. Take it to the Limits: Milton Friedman on Libertarianism." Interview. February 10, 1999.] He claimed this to be supported both by economic theory, referred to by some journalists as Market fundamentalism, and empirical evidence. [Nardinelli, Clark. "Child Labor and the Factory Acts." "Journal of Economic History", Dec. 1980.] Hugh Cunningham, [ "The Employment and Unemployment of Children in England c.1680-1851."] "Past and Present". Feb., 1990] According to Friedman's theory, before the Industrial Revolution virtually all children worked in agriculture. During the Industrial Revolution many of these children moved from farm work to factory work. Over time, as real wages rose, parents became able to afford to send their children to school instead of work and as a result child labor declined, both before and after legislation.

Yet Friedman's theory posited that the absence of child labor is a luxury that many poor states cannot yet afford, and that to prohibit it is to prevent the overall economic growth necessary to eventually relieve a society of the need for child labor. In poor societies he claimed that children will be put to work by their families by whatever means necessary. Moreover, in addition to possibly increasing family costs on a depleted family income, in the absence of a public school program, parents may have to forego potential labor time and income, to care for their children.

However, the British historian and socialist E.P. Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class draws a qualitative distinction between child domestic work and participation in the wider (waged) labor-market. Further, the usefulness of the experience of the industrial revolution in making predictions about current trends has been disputed. Economic historian Hugh Cunningham, author of Children and Childhood in Western Society Since 1500, notes that::"Fifty years ago it might have been assumed that, just as child labor had declined in the developed world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so it would also, in a trickle-down fashion, in the rest of the world. Its failure to do that, and its re-emergence in the developed world, raise questions about its role in any economy, whether national or global."Hugh Cunninghame, "The decline of child labor: labor markets and family economies in Europe and North America since 1830", "Economic History Review", 2000.]

Big Bill Haywood, a leading labor organizer and leader of the Western Federation of Miners and a founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World famously claimed "the worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children!" [ WOBBLIES! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the world edited by Paul Buhle and Nicole Schulman p.294. ]

According to Thomas DeGregori, an economics professor at the University of Houston, in an article published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank operating in Washington D.C., "it is clear that technological and economic change are vital ingredients in getting children out of the workplace and into schools. Then they can grow to become productive adults and live longer, healthier lives. However, in poor countries like Bangladesh, working children are essential for survival in many families, as they were in our own heritage until the late 19th century. So, while the struggle to end child labor is necessary, getting there often requires taking different routes -- and, sadly, there are many political obstacles."DeGregori, Thomas R., [ "Child Labor or Child Prostitution?"] Cato Institute. ] .

Austrian school economist Murray Rothbard also defended child labor, stating that British and American children of the pre- and post-Industrial Revolution went "voluntarily and gladly" to work in factories. []

ee also

*Legal working age
*Guaranteed minimum income
*Children's rights movement
*International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, IPEC
*Child soldiers
*Child prostitution
*IREWOC - Institute for Research on Working Children
*Youth activism
*London matchgirls strike of 1888
*The Newsboys Strike

International conventions and other instruments:
*Pilot project on Delivery of water to households far from sources of safe water
*Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999


External links

* [ International Research on Child Labour]
* [ History Place] Photographs from 1908-1912
* [ The State of the World's Children - a UNICEF study]
* Youtube Video: [ "United States Child Labor, 1908-1920: As Seen Through the Lens of Sociologist and Photographer Lewis W. Hine"]
* Child labor in Chile, 1880-1950 [ download complete text, in spanish]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • child labor — n. the regular, full time employment of children under a legally defined age in factories, stores, offices, etc.: in the U.S., the minimum legal age under federal law is 16 (in hazardous occupations, 18) …   English World dictionary

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  • child labor — noun : the employment of a child in a business or industry especially in violation of state or federal statutes prohibiting the employment of children under a specified age …   Useful english dictionary

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  • child labor — noun The employment of children who are under the legal (or generally recognised) minimum age …   Wiktionary

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  • child labor laws — n. Laws regulating the hours, conditions, and nature of work that may be performed by children. The Essential Law Dictionary. Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Amy Hackney Blackwell. 2008. child labor laws …   Law dictionary

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