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Child Labor: A Growing Stigma Essay

Child labor is one of the most controversial debates existing today. It is an issue that is spread throughout the world and has in some way or another been apart of every country. One cannot describe child labor using one specific definition because it has different meanings in almost every country. However, there is one common characteristic it possesses: the lack of development in a country.

Looking at the world today, the economies of each country vary so greatly. Many of the less developed, financially unstable countries exploit young children into factories, workshops, and hazardous areas. These children are unable to avoid this scandal because of the situation that many of them are put in. Since their birth, they are designated to work as young as five to support their family. Education is not an option because almost all of these countries have either no educational system or a pitiful, non-rewarding form of one. Therefore, kids are trapped and do not have the ability to enjoy so many of the wonderful things children in more developed countries get to experience. By not promoting education, the children eventually grow into a society completely undeveloped and illiterate, furthermore continuing the ongoing process of child labor promoting itself.

Smaller countries are not the only ones that have been affected by child labor. Wealthier countries such as America have had a dark past with child labor like many of the present day third-world countries. In the early 1900’s, America was industrializing itself and began developing assembly lines to mass-produce items. This was a stepping stone into changing the economy. The problem with this approach, however, was all of this was happening right around the time of World War I and the Great Depression.

These two events caused widespread poverty to families throughout the United States. Children were forced to work in terrible conditions because either their father was at war or it was impossible to put food on the table with the lack of available jobs. So in effect, the poverty and lack of a developed economy promoted child labor to new heights. As Eric Edmonds, a professor from Dartmouth College states in the article ‘Child Labor: Sickness or Symptom,’ “poverty, not child labor, is the real problem.”

Not only is child labor morally wrong, it is also physically debilitating. Children who work at these young ages are often left with both physical and psychological problems. In India for example, children making silk thread are forced to put their hands in boiling water, causing burning and blistering to their hands. They are also forced to breathe in dangerous fumes from the machinery around them, and guide threads that cut their fingers. These are things that no human being should be forced to do, let alone a child. This is just one of many extremely hazardous jobs that children all over the world are demanded to do behind closed doors.

So what can be done about all of this injustice across the world? The International Labor Organization was established back in 1919 specifically to globally change the way that owners regulate work codes. This organization estimates that there are currently two hundred forty-six million children working between the ages of five and seventeen. Of those numbers, approximately one hundred seventy-nine million are involved in the worst forms of child labor. The ILO Convention Number 182 was specifically designed to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in many of the smaller, third-world countries. Many nations have ratified this convention, but can not necessarily enforce it.

There are both good and bad reasons for this response. The good side is obviously the fact that the principle behind exploiting children is attempted to be abolished. The downside to this is that in certain cases, children are better off slaving away in a factory then elsewhere. If they are forced out of this position, the children could in turn become part of militia groups, or worse, prostitution rings. The primary reason for the problems associated with reforms is that many times the people making these ratifications do not fully comprehend the lack of educational opportunities for many children in these countries. The principle behind this convention may seem beneficial at first, but can also be a death sentence for many children.

There are exceptions to child labor in small instances all over the world. Even now in America, the Amish still use children to work in stores and farms. The article ‘Labor Laws: An Amish Exception,’ talks about how children are put to work to keep out of trouble. As one passage states, “As all Amish know, if boys are not working they will just be out on the street, up to no good.” This is a decent philosophy, but the problem with it lies in the fact that many of the materials and resources the Amish utilized are now becoming scarce and difficult to obtain. The inflated prices of land have forced children to work in workshops with dangerous equipment. This truly demonstrates the importance of developing a general education as a tool to use when a certain trade or skill becomes ineffective or obsolete.

The only solution for child labor is for countries to develop. Once these societies begin establishing settlements for learning, technology and the economy will in turn advance in future generations. This continual growth will promote progression that will in turn eliminate the necessity for child labor in many cases. Obviously, this solution will take time and large amounts of money invested from outside organizations. The consequences of not doing anything, however, will simply further the problem. Child labor is something that will be around forever in some form or another, but it is an opposition we can defeat through a worldwide effort.

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