Child labor refers to the economic active population under the age of 15 years employed in various industries (Grootaert, 2). According to the Microsoft Encarta, child labor is now used to denote the employment of minors in work that may interfere with their education or endanger their health (IPEC, 1). Child labor has grown to be a topic of widespread debate. It has many favorable and unfavorable points of view. In any case, child labor should be eradicated as it is harmful to the health of the children, it is an obstacle to their education, and it denies them a happy childhood.
Child labor is common in agriculture, domestic service, the sex industry, the carpet and textile industries, quarrying and brick making in countries in Asia and Africa (IPEC, 1). Employers in these industries buy children from their debtors or through the labor contractors (1). Sometimes children work to help pay off a loan incurred by the family (Grootaert, 2; IPEC, 1). In some cases the parents give their children to outsiders to work without pay in exchange for better living conditions in wealthy houses (IPEC, 1). Child labor also results from the system of apprenticeship, in which a child is sent to work to learn a trade. But actually they work more than they learn (Grootaert, 5).
Child labor has hostile consequences on the health of the children (Parker, 1). Children work in conditions that may endanger their health such as in stone quarries, tanning leather, and electroplating metals. They work without any protective clothing or equipment (1). Children in different occupations face different fatal diseases. Children employed in stone cutting, brick factories, granite quarries and slate factories face the risk of silicosis caused from exposure to sillica (1). Tuberculosis is another disease faced by children in pottery related industries (1). These children also suffer from malnutrition due to their poor living conditions.
Child laborers work for most of the time. In some cases they work for 16 hours a day (Child labor, 1). This deprives the child from time to seek education, which is essential for the overall development and future progress of the child. Some children are bound by their employers as slaves and have to work all the time. In some cases the poverty of the household and low level of parental education are responsible for child labor (Grootaert, 3).
The value of education is less important to the parents than the income the child earns for them. In the present money-oriented environment, the parents consider putting their child to work a better education method than schooling as work assures survival and better future prospects (3). This is due to the failure of many graduates to get a job, which is evident from the high level of unemployment existing among them. Kemmer Agiobou quotes, “Education broadens your mind but it does not teach you how to survive.”(3)
Children working as child laborers are denied a happy childhood. Numerous children in countries of Asia and Africa have to work throughout the day for money or for a monetary obligation of their parents (IPEC, 1). Young boys are put into agriculture and other activities as soon they are old enough to perform the tasks (Grootaert, 3). Girls are made to do household and domestic work as soon as they learn to do them (3). This leaves the child with little or no time for recreation. These children do not get time to play with other children of the same age group. Their friends are children they work with and not whom they play with.
They even have little time to seek the love and affection of their parents. On the other hand, these children share the burden of financial responsibility with their parents. They face various health problems in their childhood. These children have to suffer physical and mental job stress at a very young age (2). Malnutrition is widespread among child laborers. They also receive less or no education compared to their rich counterparts. They are made to do menial and low level jobs that hurt their self-esteem at a very young age. This may hamper their normal development.
Child labor has certain positive aspects also. It is the only means for orphans to earn their living. These unfortunate children who loose their parents at an early age and have no relatives to support them have to depend on working at their small age. In the developing countries of Asia and Africa, there are fewer programs taking care of the problems of the orphans due to the lack of sources and vastness of the problem (Grootaert, 7). In many cases through the practice of child labor the children help and support their parents to settle their financial obligations and to earn money to support the family (2).
People living below poverty line have no other option than to force their children into working in factories and other places for wages. Some parents force their children into the child labor market because they consider it as a part of socialization process that introduces a child to work activities and teaches survival skills (2). For households that have low income, any hindrance in the path of income creates complications in the survival of the family, as they do not have enough savings or credit facilities to support them in case of emergencies (4). This encourages the parents to send their children for work as it helps to face the risk of fall in income or loss of work by any member of the family.
Many organizations and people around the world are engaged in activities to eradicate child labor from the face of the world. For this they favor policies which worsen the conditions of the victims of child labor instead of improving their living conditions (Henderson, 1). Such organizations favor the method of taxing heavily the goods that are produced by employers using child labor, to discourage them from employing children. Some organizations persuade people not to buy products of companies that use child labor (1). When it is successful, the children are left job less and have no means of earning money for survival.
Moreover, the child laborers and their parents consider these organizations as enemies. They get angry at these organizations because these organizations persuade employers not to employ the children and the consumers not to buy their products, which endangers the job of the child children (1). The organizations make little effort for providing alternative facilities to the child laborers that may be beneficial to them. Such aggressive methods to eradicate child labor would be properly successful only if they are accompanied by measures and programs that insure households a regular income (Grootaert, 4).
Though child labor supports many poor people, efforts should be made to eliminate it in a manner that does not worsen the condition of the poor people. Programs should be introduced that provide the unemployed with jobs with adequate salaries. Centers that support the orphans and provide them with free education should be established. Education should be provided to the poor for free and encouraged through different media in an effective manner.
Child labor is considered good by many parents of poor families around the world. Therefore efforts should be made to change the outlook of these parents towards child labor. They should be made to realize that it is in the best interest of their child not to work as working may endanger the health and development of their child. In general, all the efforts must be directed towards the elimination of poverty. Thus, the world would be a better place for all children when they are brought up in a loving and caring environment and do not have to work and toil right from the early stages of their lives.