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Child Labor: Still Alive and Kickin
If you are a parent, the single most important aspect of your life is your child or children. You want only the best for them: the healthiest food, the best education, a comfortable life. Your life revolves around your offspring. No loving parent would ever subject their child to any form of harm or grueling labor (although many children consider homework and chores “grueling” labor), but although the idea of child labor still existing in our society seems outdated, child labor continues to prevail throughout our society despite the measures taken against it. Many things have been done to aid the issue, and the efforts have not proven futile, but much more needs to be done before the issue of child labor will ever be solved.
Child labor is far from nonexistent. Children are a prominent source of labor in many developing countries as can be seen in figure 1. It proves to be especially prevalent throughout many areas of Africa and Asia. Through figure 1, the extent of child labor stands to be seen as nearly one-quarter of the regions’ population of children between the ages five through fourteen are involved in child labor activities and even reaching nearly one-half of the population of children in West and Central Africa.
When people think about child labor, they usually tend to gravitate towards child labor in factory work. Although factory work is one prominent form of child labor, not all child labor is bad. Often times, child labor is a part of custom and tradition especially in developing nations. The developing world (parts of Asia, Africa, etc.) tends to value culture and tradition more than the developed world (United States, Europe, etc.). Developed countries like the United States and United Kingdom have slowly floated away from many traditional values and into more modern thinking to go along with the quick changing times, but lesser developed countries generally adhere to more customary values (Greene 32). These customary values include putting children to work to aid the family income. This type of child labor differs vastly from the stereotypical idea that child labor refers to sweatshop factory work.
Factory work for children proves to be extremely life threatening to the children who are more often than not coerced into working. A particularly notable country in terms of child labor is China. Child labor runs rampant throughout many provinces in China including “Guangdong Province [where] several arrests [had been made and] more than 100 children from factories in the city of Dongguan [have been rescued]” (Barboza). Many efforts have been made to prevent and discontinue child labor within China like the arrests made the rescue of the children. Officials reported that “hundreds of other rural children had been lured or forced into captive, almost slave-like conditions for minimal pay. The children, mostly between the ages of 13 and 15, were often tricked or kidnapped by employment agencies” (Barboza). The monstrosity of this act is enormous. Young children being “kidnapped by employment agencies” to be forced into “slave-like” conditions with no means to defend themselves seems almost impossible. To envision this occurring to your own children is unfathomable. China contains a high concentration of child labor issues due to the number of corporate businesses manipulating the country for its cheap labor, and what labor is cheaper than child labor? Children cannot protect themselves from injustice and can be paid extremely low wages for they cannot rebel or strike against the large corporate businesses. A newspaper stated that “children were paid about three yuan per hour, or about 42 cents, far below the local minimum wage of about 64 cents an hour” (Barboza). The children are practically defenseless, and regardless of the number of injustices done to them, they are too young to effectively deter these malicious acts. They are paid over 34% less than the local minimum wage of 64 cents. Why wouldn’t large corporations jump on this opportunity to take advantage of young children who cannot defend themselves?
China has been trying to improve the situation. Beijing has increased its “efforts to crack down on child labor and labor law violations”, but experts say that “while Beijing had pushed to improve labor conditions throughout the nation, local governments are still driven by incentives to grow their economy, and so they try to lure cheap labor” (Barboza). Despite efforts to aid the situation, local governments manipulate the rules and find ways to bypass the system to continue receiving this cheap form of labor.
Although child labor seems to be extremely difficult to prevent, it can be done. Just a century ago, the United States experienced the same situation. In retaliation against child labor, the National Child Labor Committee was established in 1904 and “had an extensive network of state and local chapters, often composed primarily of leaders of local women’s clubs” (“Seven”). By banding together various small organizations and clubs to form a large organization, the NCLC was able to effectively combat child labor. They succeeded in putting into action “state laws restricting child labor” (“Seven”). Through perseverance and hard work, this organization, originally made up of many small clubs and groups, was able to achieve success in enacting a various laws to prevent child labor. Also, the International Labour Organization provides researching showing “that child labor has decreased by 3 percent worldwide from 2004 to 2008, with a 10 percent decrease in children performing hazardous work” (Ellis). Improvements in the child labor situation are being made although the problem is still prevalent. In addition, Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education and Labor & Pensions Committee states that “ ‘At least in one instance, with the products and countries put on [the list of products and countries using child labor], some private sector companies actually came to us and asked what they could do to get off the list’” (Ellis). The fact that there are companies asking for help in preventing child labor within their own company proves that improvements are being made, and maybe one day, problems with child labor may be completely eliminated.
Child labor still has to go a long way before this issue will be solved, but many measures have been taken to aid in relieving the problem. Many things can be done even as a regular citizen of America to aid children trapped in the vicious and unlawful acts of child labor. The first step that can be taken is to be educated on the matter and inform your friends and colleagues that this issue does continue to exist. Many organizations have been created to combat child labor just like Free the Children. You can visit this website: http://www.freethechildren.com/get involved/geteducated/childlabour.htm. On the website, it provides information on the child labor situation worldwide and has various options you can explore to take your part in combating child labor. Remember, every small action counts. Help the children.
Barboza, David. "China confronts news of another child-labor ring Youths forced to work 300
hours a month."International Herald Tribune 2 May 2008: 3. InfoTrac Newsstand. Web.
25 Jan. 2011.
"Child Labour in the Developing World." Chart. UNICEF. Web. 20 Jan. 2011. <http://www.unicef.org/sowc06/pdfs/figure3_6.pdf>.
Ellis, Kristi. "Report: Child, Forced Labor Still Global Problem." WWD 200.126 (2010): 8. General OneFile. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.
Greene, Laura. Child Labor: Then and Now. New York: F. Watts, 1992. Print.
"'Seven Years of Child Labor Reform'." American Decades Primary Sources. Ed. Cynthia Rose. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 407-412. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.