Daily, the average consumer uses at least one item made from child laborers. From soap to the newest iPhone, child laborers make up to 60% of worldwide goods (McCarthy). As reported by the International Labor Organization (ILO), in 2013, there were about 265 million children forced into child labor systems (Ospina and Roser). Child labor systems are most common in third world nations, such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (“Child Labor”). “Child labor” is described as children being tasked with carrying out physically and emotionally demanding jobs (“What is Child Labor”). Child labor takes many forms, for example, domestic labor and prostitution. Child labor impacts society in first and second world countries by low prices of goods.
Consumerism increases throughout the world. Due to low prices of goods children forced into labor systems have limited schooling, resulting in becoming uneducated citizens and lacking culture, are at a higher risk of dying at a young age, and develop emotional trauma from enduring constant abuse. Alongside their children, parents are also affected by child labor systems. As more children are forced to work, the demand for adult labor decreases along with adult wages. The average pay for child laborers is less than 20 cents a day (UNICEF). Since child labor is cheap it allows companies to sell their goods at a low price, benefiting consumers. Preventing child labor is important in today’s society because it gives the children involved access to schooling, ending the cycle of poverty.
Children involved in child labor do not attend school, regularly. This makes them unable to pursue different career fields in their adult life. According to a former leader of the Human Development Program, Kathleen Beegle, “However, existing evidence…suggests that attendance co-varies quite substantially with child labor (that is, working children attend school less regularly than non-working children) and appears to be a better measure of time in school than, say, enrollment” (Beegle, et al 7). The Human Development Program focuses on providing education and employment opportunities for communities in poverty. Children that are forced to work at a young age will be enrolled into school, however, they will not be able to attend school for long periods of time. Eventually, this leads to the child being removed from school, without any formal education. Once the child becomes an adult, they will not be an educated citizen. Educated citizens are more likely to make wiser decisions to better society. Beegle and her colleagues conducted the study to fully understand the effects child labor has a child’s health, education, and wage.
Children forced into child labor often work and live in unsafe conditions. Working in substandard conditions put the children at high risk of dying younger than the previous generation. Paola Roggero, a former pediatrician for the Human Development Program, agrees by stating, “In Table 1 [a table showing the percentage of malnourished child laborers in multiple countries] the independent variables account for approximately 77% of the mortality rates for children, both boys and girls, aged 10 to 14 years…” (33). Roggero explains, children forced into child labor are treated poorly and become unhealthy which weakens their immune system. With a weak immune system, a child is unable to fight off infectious diseases. For example, in most sub-saharan African countries, 1000 children die from influenza every year (Sambala 2). However, in the United States, about 50 children die from influenza every year (Sun). Roggero shares her study to find the correlation between high mortality rates and large child labor systems, in third world countries.
Children working in rigorous labor systems develop emotional trauma from enduring abuse. According to Abdalla Ibrahim, a professor of medicine at Maastricht University and a head researcher of a study, A Study on Child Labor and Health, conducted to understand the mental health effects of children working in labor systems, “A similar study conducted in Turkey documented that 62.5% of the child [laborers] were subjected to abuse at their workplaces; 21.8% physical, 53.6% emotional and 25.2% sexual, 100% were subjected to physical neglect and 28.7% were subjected to emotional neglect” (7). Children that are forced into labor are abused emotionally and physically. Emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse because it does not jeopardize the child’s physical ability to work. Children experiencing emotional abuse leads to depression or behavioral disorders. Children that develop these disorders often view themselves as unworthy and have a low self-esteem, increasing their chance of carrying out suicidal thoughts.
In third world countries, parents of impoverished families go to work in factories. They are unable to find jobs because the demand for adult labor is low due to the high demand for cheap labor, child labor. As the demand for adult labor declines and child labor increases, the wages for adult workers decreases. According to Eric Neumayer, a professor of economics at London School of Economics, and Indra de Soysa, a professor of political science and researcher of international government for the International Peace Research Institute, “Instead, children…are hired on lower wages, which also depresses the going wage rate for the adult workers”(9). The wages for adults decreases because there are more laborers to pay, that are often children. Adults with low wages and poverty, send their children to work to earn extra income. Continuing the cycle of child labor.
Although child labor decreases the wages for adults, the goods produced are cost effective to business and consumers. Giorgio Barba Navaretti, a professor of economics at the University of Milan, states, “Investments towards cheap labour countries generally reflect the aim of saving on labour costs and they are of a vertical type, which also implies a geographical fragmentation of production” (19). Navaretti explains cheap labor, such as child labor, allows businesses to sell the goods produced at a low price. Low prices allow more consumers to be able to purchase the items because the goods are affordable and more accessible. Navaretti’s study explains companies that use cheap labor often positively affect the economy and consumers.
It is obvious child labor affects most of society, eventually increasing consumer culture. To prevent child labor from continuing, consumers should stop buying products from companies that use child labor systems, such as Nestle and Walmart. However, for the solution to be carried out effectively, consumers should educate themselves about child labor systems. Although, some may argue this solution is easier said than done, once attempted, it will limit the profits of the known companies forcing them to limit their employees, which affects the economy.