There are several schools of thought on this topic, and most views from the developed nations frown on such activities. According to UNICEF, the definition of child labour is that their work exceeds a minimum number of hours, and depends on the age of the child and on the type of work that they perform. Work that is considered to be harmful to a child and should be eliminated are as follows:
1. Ages 5 – 11: At least one hour of economic work or 28 hours of domestic work per week.
2. Ages 12 – 14: At least 14 hours of economic work or 28 hours of domestic work.
3. Ages 15 – 17: At least 43 hours of economic or domestic work per week.
There are an estimated 158 million children between the ages of 5 – 15 whom are currently engaged in this form of labour, or 1 sixth of all the children in the world. Millions of these child laborers are engaged in hazardous situations and/or conditions, such as that of working in mines, working with hazardous chemicals and pesticides in agriculture, or working with dangerous machinery. This form of labour does not, however, in this context include normal household chores, working in the family business, or work that is related to school.
Most developed nations go by the standard adopted by the International Labor Organization in 1973 called the Minimum Age Convention, which has a minimum age of 15 years, while declarations of 14 years are also acceptable for a specified period of time, and children aged 13 to 15 are also acceptable under circumstances such as light work, and not harmful to their health or school studies or grades. A minimum age of 18 years old was established for any work which is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young people.
Child Labour Pros:
The hazards of Boycotts:
According to UNICEF, after the Child Labor Deterrence Act was introduced in the U.S., which, by the way, was a bill that “prohibits the importation of products that have been produced by child labor, and included civil and criminal penalties for violators”, an estimated 50,000 children lost their jobs in the garment industry in Bangladesh, and were more or less forced to take dangerous jobs such as stone-crushing, street hustling, and even prostitution, and being much more exploitative than their previous garment industry jobs. The study concluded that boycotts are “blunt instruments with long-term consequences, that can actually harm rather than help the children involved.”
Another theory in the pros of children workers is from an economics professor from the University of Houston, Thomas DeGregori, whom, in an article published by the Cato Institute claims that “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 of many families, as they were in our own heritage until the late 19th century. So, while the struggle to end child labour is necessary, getting there often requires taking different routes, and, sadly, there are many political obstacles.”
Child Labour Cons:
There are many issues with child laborers, many of which we briefly touched on previously. The employment of child laborers is exploitative in many cases, and many more cases, also dangerous. Many children are forced to do tedious tasks such as assembly of boxes, polishing shoes, stocking store shelves, or cleaning. Most child laborers also are used in the informal sector such as street hustling, or selling stuff on the streets, working at farms or plantations in the agri-business, or as domestic servants, hidden away from the inspectors that look for child labour violators.
There is other dangers involved with the cons of child labour. We have child slavery, child prostitution, child soldiers, and child trafficking.
Although with the elimination of slavery for the most part which has also greatly reduced child slavery, this problem still exists, especially in third world countries. This form of child slavery can also include forced labour, or unfree labour in which children are employed against their will by a threat of destitution, detention, violence or death, or extreme hardship to themselves or members of their families.
Child prostitution is most prevalent in third world countries again. There are many different estimates, but for some examples, a third of all prostitutes in Cambodia are under 18, while estimates for Thailand are 40 percent, and in India, 1.2 million children are believed to be involved in prostitution, and 40,000 in Sri Lanka. In the Philippines it gets worse, as 60,000 to 100,000 children are prostituted and in Bangladesh, estimates go as high as 29,000.
The military use of children takes three distinctive forms, where children can take direct part in hostilities (child soldiers), or they can be used in support roles such as porters, spies, messengers, look outs, and sexual slaves, or they can be used for political advantage either as human shields or in propaganda strategies.
Throughout the history of man and also in many cultures, children have been widely used in military campaigns even when such practices were against the current cultural morals of that society. Since then, and in the 1970s, there have been a number of international conventions that have come into effect that try to limit the participation of children in armed conflicts, nevertheless the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers reports that the use of children in military forces, and the active participation of children in armed conflicts is still ongoing and widespread. Currently, over 20 nations around the planet utilize children as direct participants in wars, with an estimated 200 to 300 thousand children serving as soldiers for both rebel groups and government forces in armed conflicts.
In essence, most forms of the use children fro labor are exploitative and harmful by nature, and should not be tolerated. We should, however, take into consideration the culture in which that child laborer resides, and the effects of eliminating those jobs. If the elimination of certain jobs puts child laborers into more harmful jobs, then we must consider and find alternative means to those employers and children alike. This is one of the many struggles when it comes to the moral problems stemming from the use of children in the workforce, and one which must be taken into account before we go off to save the world and the children, when we can, in effect, be placing them in more danger. So, my friends, we must think and research before we act, and organize and new boycotts and laws that we may want to enact. We must make sure that we do no place any children in harms way be taking away their jobs. We must make sure that their families can either make enough income without them working and they have access to adequate educational opportunities. Yes, child labour is a moral issue, and yes, we can reduce or eliminate it, but we must do so with care and caution, so we don’t endanger those whom we wish to save!