Child Labor: A Global Issue

Child labor means when young people, under 15, but sometimes as young as 5 or 6, are forced to work because their parents cannot work or do not make enough money at their jobs to support their family. There are two kinds of work that children do, and only one of them is child labor.

Child Labor is:
• work that is done all day by children
• work that stops children from going to school
• work that is dangerous and may hurt children physically, emotionally, or mentally such as mining, making bricks, carpets, glass, ceramics, etc.

The other kind of work that children do is just helping out the family or earning money for outside-of-school activities. While this work may be really boring, it is not child labor.

Child labor is not:
• work done around the house before or after school
• work for an organization or a company during the summer or over a vacation to learn about a specific kind of work
• work you do when you are learning about something and doing it at the same time. For example, electricians often have apprentices learn the job while helping out around the shop.
• work done to help out at a family farm or business as long as it does not keep you from going to school or doing your homework
• work done after school or on weekends to earn extra money

Most child laborers around the world are busy doing extreme forms of work that are dangerous for their health. They are also being robbed of their rights, including not only the right to develop to the highest level through education, but also the right to a childhood. They often work as many as 12 hours a day, (sometimes more), work under dangerous conditions such as factories with harmful smokes in the air, handle dangerous materials, and use tools and machines which are not designed for them.

Child labor is more common in developing countries, but it also exists in industrialized nations. While child labor mostly exists in South and Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa, it is also a growing concern in Eastern Europe where countries are changing economically. The International Labor Organization (ILO*) has estimated that about 250 million children, between the ages of five and fourteen, work in developing countries—at least 120 million on a full time basis. Sixty-one percent of these are in Asia, 32 percent in Africa, and 7 percent in Latin America. Most working children in rural areas are found in agriculture; urban children work in trade and services, with fewer in manufacturing, construction, and domestic services.

Child labor is both a result and a cause of poverty. In most cases, poor families send their young children to work because their income is important for the family. On the other hand, since these children are usually prevented from going to school, and they are not able to do any other kind of work, they will have a poor life in future.

Children work for many reasons, including the pressure of poverty, adult unemployment, and irrelevant education systems that fail to guarantee jobs or prepare children for self-employment. Employers may hire children since they can pay them less. Children are also easier to discipline, more willing to work and often unable to form unions to protect themselves.

There is no simple way to stop child labor. But this is no reason for inaction. Luckily, people are becoming aware of the serious social, economic, and developmental effects of child labor. They are becoming more and more aware of the fact that child labor is harmful to their sense of importance, health, and education. In the past few years, several countries with the help of international organizations such as ILO and UNICEF* have made national plans and programs to stop child labor. All such programs follow four strategies to control it:
• providing free and good education
• making better laws and making sure that people follow them
• removing children from work and creating better conditions for them
• encouraging social movements against child labor