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The Truth About Child Labor

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In the book Kids at Work, it tells the story of Manuel, a five year old boy who gets up at 3 am and goes to the shrimp cannery where he peels shrimps for the whole day. He has been doing this since he was four. Manuel is just one out of the millions of kids that have stories just like his.


Child labor is a topic that is hotly contested, some think it is a good thing because children can be hired for less money, which has numeros benefits for companies. However, others argue that child labor is a negative thing that badly affects children’s lives. After the research that I have done on the topic of child labor, and seeing all the lives it has affected, I am arguing that child labor is a terrible thing that has many negative effects, not just for the children, but for the world. For example, it takes children out of school, takes adults out of work, and it puts children in hazardous situations that damages their health and can even kill them. I will explore these ideas today and go more in depth with them.


The first negative affect that child labor has on the world is it makes it so children don’t get an education. Since the children have to work so much to support their family, most 12 hours a day or more, there is no time to go to school, or their parents don’t find it important. On Lewis Hine’s trip around America in the early 1900’s, he saw kids not getting an education all over the country. One boy who was 17 didn’t know how to write his name. This sets the child up for poverty, he won't be able to get a good job because he hasn’t gone to school. In the book Kids at Work, Lewis Hine was the photographer  who traveled around the United States taking pictures of children working. These pictures helped challenge the existing child labor laws in the U.S., he stated, “Many of the children quit school at an early age, or never went at all. Their parents, who often lacked an education themselves, didn’t want their kids “wasting time” by attending school.” (pg. 32) This shows how parents didn’t support their children going to school, because they wanted them to spend time working in order to support the family. In the article, “Opinion: With Millions Unprotected, Action is Needed to End Child Slavery” by Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children's education and rights advocate and an activist against child labor, it says that in New Delhi, India, there are 68 million child laborers of those, 59 million of them don’t go to school. This is significant because it tells the readers how little of the children go to school. All in all, this suggests most child laborers don’t get an education. This can set them up for poverty later in life, because they won’t be able to get a good job.


The second negative effect of child labor is that it creates less and less jobs for adults. Since the children are taking the adults work because they can be payed less, the adults are finding it hard to provide for their families, leading to their children going into work. In the book Kids at Work, written by Russell Freedman, a Newbery medal winning author that writes biographies, it says a local newspaper wrote; “And yet with an army of idle men in our midst, children who ought to be in school are doing factory work… Put the men to work and let the babies go home!” (pg. 8) This is important to notice because the men had no work to do, instead the children were working in factories instead of them because they can be payed less. In the book Kids at Work by Russell Freedman, a Newbery medal winning author that writes biographies, it says, “Because children could be hired cheaply and were too small to complain, they were often employed to replace adult workers.” (22) This evidence is significant because it shows how the low costs of employing children takes adults out of work and put more kids into work. This book also tells us that when many children were hired, their low earnings pulled down the earnings of everyone else's. This makes it so adults couldn’t make enough to support their families. Poor families needed their child’s earnings just to survive. This is important to notice because this shows how the adults started earning less and less because the companies could hire children. All this lead to the kids needing to work in order to keep their family feed. This adds up to showing and supporting how child labor takes adults out of work.


The final negative effect that child labor has on the world is that it puts children in highly dangerous and hazardous jobs. Some of these jobs cause health problems and can even kill them. Children should not be placed in life endangering jobs. In the book Kids at Work, by Russell Freedman, a Newbery medal winning author that writes biographies, it says, “While I was there, two breaker boys fell or were carried into the coal chute, where they were smothered to death,” (48). This evidence shows in the work of a breaker boy, a boy that would pick out the slate and stone from the coal chutes. If they reached too far and fell into the coal, they could be mangled or killed. This is one example of a highly hazardous job that children should not be forced to perform. Another hard job shown in Kids at Work was the job of the Glass blowers. They faced intense heat, glaring light, open furnaces, fumes and dust, broken glass on the floor, these can cause eye problems, lung ailments, heat exhaustion, and other medical problems. Some had to work night shifts from 5 pm - 3am. The temperature in the glass factories were from 100 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. All while making about 65 cents per day. This means that the jobs can cause major health problems. Children should not be working in jobs that could kill them or cause life threatening health problems. The final hazardous job that I will talk about is the job of the children working in the cotton mills. Some of the children worked over machinery that was whirling beneath them, according to the book Kids at Work, if they weren’t careful they would fall in and get injured. It can take off fingers and much more. Why should children be placed in jobs that endanger them and put them in unsafe positions? All this adds up to suggest that children should not be put in these hazardous and dangerous jobs, they should be acting like kids and not going to work.


Some say that child labor is a good thing, that it provides companies with a cheaper way to get manual labor. This allows business expenses to be driven down while getting the same amount of labor. However, children should not be put into work, as you can see from the reasons above. Also, adults are losing their jobs because the companies have to pay them more for them to work. Therefore, the parents send their kids to work because they can’t make enough, which leads to more child labor. Some say that child labor is a good thing because it teaches children life skills that will then later be useful to them. However, the goal of child labor is to benefit from the children’s cheap labor, not for children to gain life skills. In the book Kids at Work, by Russell Freedman, an Newbery medal winning author that writes biographies, it says, “The object of employing children is not to train them, but to get high profits for their work.” (21) This means the companies hire children to benefit their company, they don’t take into consideration the effects on the children.


After all the research I have done on this topic, I have come to the conclusion that child labor is a horrendous thing that has many negative effects. Some of these include taking children out of school, taking adults out of work, and putting children in hazardous situations that damages their health and can even kill them. Imagine that you are a parent, you have two kids, a boy and a girl. However, you can't find any work or you aren’t paid enough to support your family. So, you have to send your children to work in hazardous jobs. They have to work 12 hours a day, in a cotton mill, coming home exhausted and sometimes hurt. Then, they have to get up early the next morning to repeat this all over again. Sadly, this story is a reality for many families. Don’t let this happen to anyone else. Take action to prevent and stop child labor, because there is still so much work to be done.

Bibliography

Photos
Dreier, Peter. The Radical Images of Lewis Hine, Documentary Photographer. Digital image.The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost, 27 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.


Articles
Satyarthi, Kailash. "Opinion: With Millions Unprotected, Action Is Needed to End Child Slavery." Newsela | Opinion: With Millions Unprotected, Action Is Needed to End Child Slavery. N.p., 03 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

Books
Freedman, Russell. Kids at Work Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor. N.p.: Paw Prints, 2008. Print.






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