Child labor is still seen in many developing nations. Here, we provide you with an insight into this deeply abominable practice, and the scarring effects it can have on children and society as a whole.
Child labor alludes to the practice of employing children full-time in industries, often under dangerous and unhealthy conditions. The practice still prevails in developing countries, glaring examples being countries in Africa, south-east Asia, and Latin America. Many children across the globe lose their childhood working in hazardous conditions with meager pays. It is a law in all countries that the stipulated age of employment should be such that the child can finish his/her compulsory education. However, this law is violated and many industries still employ children, subjecting them to work in conditions that can pose a danger to their health.
The history of child labor can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution, when very young children were forced to work in coal mines, factories, sweatshops, and even as domestic servants. Even today, as per UNICEF, a whopping 150 million children all over the globe are engaged in labor. This practice is widely observed in the mining, ceramics and glassware, garment and carpet manufacturing, and fireworks industries. This form of exploitation denies children their basic right to education which is so crucial in their growing years. To curb this malevolent practice, we need to take a deeper look into its causes and harmful effects.
Causes of Child Labor
The major reasons being poverty and overpopulation. These two go hand in hand. Poor families tend to have more children, and when earnings of a sole person do not suffice, young children are forced to take up jobs wherever they can. Having too many members puts a financial burden on poverty-stricken families, and parents are compelled to send their children to work to get extra income.
Lack of education among the poorer sections of society is also a leading cause for children to start working early. Ignorant and illiterate people do not think twice about engaging their children in manual labor, since they are not aware of the harmful physical and mental trauma it can inflict on the child. Being poor, they cannot afford a decent education for the children, nor do they understand the importance of primary education in children’s lives.
In many developing nations, textile and garment manufacturers use children to make garments. Factory owners cut back production costs by employing children rather than adults, who are in turn paid a lot less and forced to work a lot more. Also, there is no risk of these young laborers coming up against the factory owners by forming unions because they are unaware of their rights, and hence this practice flourishes on a large-scale.
Even though countries have laws in place, these are not being implemented, leading to further exploitation of innocent children. Apathy by the government and the society has seen an increase in child workers in developing and under-developed countries.
In some countries, women are denied formal education and are brought up only to perform household chores since a very young age. Such a society believes that an educated woman will not fit into the traditional role of a home maker and bear children. This notion fuels child labor and young girls thus get pushed into doing manual house work from an early age.
Families migrating from rural to urban areas in search of better prospects often end up pushing their children to take up odd, menial jobs. This happens due to lack of proper educational resources in the rural areas, as a result of which these people do not find jobs in cities. So to make ends meet, children bear the brunt while the adults are left unemployed.
In villages, people under heavy debt “sell off” their children for a small amount of money or to repay the outstanding amount. This has given rise to the practice of bonded child labor. As a result, children are thrust into doing very hard work for long durations of time, that could well extend into their adulthood, till their family is free from the debt.
Effects of Child Labor
Children who work often face serious health problems because of working incessantly in perilous conditions. Often the employers do not care at all about underage children who are almost always malnourished, and continue to work for long hours with little or no respite.
Their mental health also takes a beating owing to this severe form of exploitation. These children often face severe mental trauma when they attain adulthood, owing to the constant threats and ill-treatment they received toiling away as laborers.
Children who cannot find work to feed large families resort to begging on the streets, and in many cases, also fall prey to prostitution. At other times, they even turn into thieves just to make a quick buck on which the family’s survival depends.
It also has a negative impact on the welfare of a nation. Since these children do not receive any education, it increases illiteracy, hampering the overall economic growth of the country, reflecting poor human development.
Lack of education as children also means that when they turn into adults, finding jobs becomes tough since these children do not possess the necessary skills and training. This leads to a sharp hike in unemployment.
Such children are always underpaid, and that lowers the country’s per capita income, putting long-term economic development in peril.
To put an end to this socio-economic problem, the government must target the root causes, namely poverty, unemployment among adults, and take measures to control population growth. Steps must be taken to educate ignorant people from poorer sections about the benefits of education so that children are not deprived of their right to go to school, and they can turn into civilized adults, get decent jobs, and contribute to the economic growth of the nation. Child employment or under-age labor is a social evil that needs to be abolished. We as a society must work together so children are freed from the evil clutches of this malpractice and lead a happy, healthy life.