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Child labor refers to the practice of placing children in formal and informal employment. This practice deprives the affected children their right to education and childhood. In addition, it affects their ability to engage in physical and cognitive activities that characterize this particular stage of human development. Child labor estimates indicate show that about 150 million children work as laborers in different parts of the globe (UNICEF, 2016). What is more, they work in horrid and hazardous conditions characterized by unsafe work environment, intimidation, and low or no remuneration. The practice is mostly prevalent in the sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and Pacific regions. This in-depth analysis of child labor highlights the causes and prevalence of child labor and intervention measures taken by governments and non-governmental organizations to stop the vice.
The causes of child labor include poverty. Poverty is characterized by the inability of a household to cater for all its needs. These needs include basic ones such as food and shelter. Therefore, poverty forces children to seek mechanisms to supplement their households’ incomes (Shukla & Ali, 2006). These children join their parents or guardians in their activities or search for employment elsewhere. The practice is illegal in most countries meaning that employers can exploit such children, as they are not unionized. Furthermore, the children might not be in a position to agitate for better working conditions. They also miss education, which affects their intellectual development and ability to compete favorably with their peers.
Another cause of child labor is poor law enforcement. Most countries across the globe have laws that protect children from this vice. However, they allocate few resources to enforcement agencies, which leave many children vulnerable to exploitation and child labor (Shukla & Ali, 2006). In addition, employers found engaging in this illegal practice are in a position to use legal and administrative loopholes to escape justice.
Cultural dispositions also contribute to the increase in child labor statistics. Some cultural practices propagate the participation of children in work activities. However, under these cultures, the participation of children in such practices is not seen as child labor even where it deprives them of education (Nanjunda, 2009). The clash between culture and legal definitions and provisions concerning child labor is a contentious issue in several countries. It is unfortunate that unscrupulous employers often take advantage of the situation and employ children. Therefore, in countries and regions experiencing such a conflict, all stakeholders must come together to find a solution and eliminate the activities of devious employers.
UNICEF reports estimate that there are at least 150 million child laborers across the globe. In addition, the organization indicates that at least 28% of these child laborers are in sub-Saharan Africa (UNICEF, 2016). The main catalyst for the prevalence of this problem is poverty. In this case, poverty covers both household income and national government budgetary constraints. Some countries in the region have high poverty levels with up to 50% of their households living under one dollar a day. This situation forces children to seek employment to supplement their households’ incomes. Moreover, their governments face constraints, which affect the availability of basic services, such as schools. Therefore, children cannot access schools forcing them to perform menial jobs at home and elsewhere. In some cases, armed movements in the region recruit children and force them to work as child soldiers.
The second most affected region is East Asia and Pacific. About 10% of all child laborers are found in this region. The countries most affected by this vice include India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and China. The major cause for the prevalence of the vice in this region is poor enactment of child protection laws. Local and national authorities charged with the responsibility for enforcing these laws do not perform their mandate effectively. What is more, these authorities are poorly funded meaning that they are not in a position to reach the most vulnerable children, especially in rural areas. In addition, some Asian economies like China have experienced a boom, which contributes to rising demand for child labor. As people or adults move to occupy other lucrative jobs emerging in the economy, menial jobs are left unattended which creates a loophole for the entry of children into the labor force.
In the United States, adolescents in the country are still subjected to farm work, according to Human Rights Watch. The conditions under which they work can be described as grueling and dangerous. As such, they are still being destroyed because such labor denies them the chance of pursuing education and living their dreams. They cannot get the chance to develop their minds because all that preoccupies their minds is the hard work at the farms. In addition to the dangerous nature of the work, the working hours are overly long; 12 to 14 in every single day of the week (“Childhood and Child Labor,” 2009). Worse off, they get paid very little, as little as $2 for one hour of demanding labor.
Noteworthy, governments have enacted legislation to protect children from being forced into employment. The United States enacted the first comprehensive legislation concerning child labor in 1938. The legislation, the Fair Labor Standards Act, outlined the minimum working age and hours (Hindman, 2014). This was the first Federal legislation that addressed the issue of child labor directly. In addition, different states have also passed and enacted legislation that addresses the issue. The main issue that these legislations address is ensuring that children of different ages can work in diverse environments. For instance, in the United States, children between 16-18 years can work in a non-hazardous environment for unlimited hours (Hindman, 2014). Also worth noting is that UNICEF is the main advocate for children rights at the international arena. It highlights, collects, and maintains data on the vice, and advocates for different policies like free basic education in all countries.
The issue of child labor is prevalent and continues to affect the lives of many children across the globe. These children are not in a position to enjoy their childhood and acquire education which is essential for their cognitive development. Moreover, most children work in high-risk environments, which jeopardizes their safety and lives. There are several causes of the vice including poverty and government apathy towards the issue. Therefore, the international community must come together to address this problem and lay down strategies to reduce child laborers and eventually eliminate the practice.
Childhood and Child Labor. (2009). In National Farm Worker Ministry. Retrieved June 8, 2020 from http://nfwm.org/2009/04/childhood-and-child-labor/
Hindman, H (2014). The world of child labor: a historical and regional survey. New York, NY: Routledge.
Nanjunda, D. C. (2009). Anthropology and child labour. New Delhi, India: Mittal Publications.
Shukla, C. K., & Ali, S. (2006). Child labour: socio-economic dimensions. New Delhi, India: Sarup & Sons.
UNICEF (2016). An estimated 150 million children worldwide are engaged in child. Retrieved June 8, 2020 from https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/child-labour/#