Child Labor, once known as the practice of employing young children in factories, now it’s used as a term for the employment of minors in general, especially in work that would interfere with their education or endanger their health. Throughout history and in all cultures children would work in the fields with their parents, or in the marketplace and young girls in the home until they were old enough to perform simple tasks. The use of child labor was not a problem until the Factory System. The Factory System is a working arrangement where a number of people cooperate to produce articles of consumption. Some form of Factory system has existed even since ancient times.
In the later part of the 18th century in Britain, owners of cotton mills gathered up orphans and children of poor families all through the country, and had them work for the payment of housing and food. Some children as young as five or six were forced to work from 13 to 16 hours a day.
Social reformers as early as 1802 tried to obtain legislative restrictions against the worst parts of the child-labor system, but little happened and little was done even to enforce existing laws which limited work hours and establishing a minimum age for employment. Children were permitted to work in dangerous jobs such as mining with the approval from political, social, and religious leaders. From this further impoverishment of poor families and a multitude of diseased and crippled children occurred.
Agitation for the reform steadily increased. The first significant British Legislation was enacted in 1878, when the minimum age of employees was raised to 10 years and employers were required to restrict employment of children between the ages of 10 and 14 to alternate days or consecutive half days. In addition to making every Saturday a half holiday, this legislation limited the workday of children between 14 and 18 years of age to 12 hours, with a 2 hour intermission for meals and rest.
Meanwhile the industrial system developed in other countries such as the United States, bringing with it the abuses of child labor similar to those in Britain. In the early years of the 19th century, children between the ages of 7 and 12 made up one-third of the workforce in U.S. factories. The Shortage of adult male laborers, who held ideas regarding the evils of idleness among children, and so cooperated with employers, helping them recruit young factory hands from families.
The earliest feature of the factory system that concerned many among leaders was the high illiteracy rate among child laborers. The first effective step toward legislation governing the education of these children was taken in 1836 when the Massachusetts Legislature adopted a law prohibiting the employment of any child under 15 years old who had received less than three months of school in the previous year. In 1848 Pennsylvania became the first state to regulate the age of youth employed in silk, cotton, or woolen mills by establishing a minimum age of 12. Several other states joined that, but none of the laws passed made provisions for establishing proof of the child’s age or for enforcement.
The length of the workday was the next feature of the factory system to be regulated my legislation. By 1853 several states had adopted a ten-hour workday for children under 12 years of age. Despite the restrictions, the number of children in industry increased greatly in the U.S after the American Civil War, when industrial expansion resulted in demand for workers. By the end of the 19th century nearly one-fifth of all American children between the ages of 10 and 16 were employed greatly. By 1910 as the result of the public-enlightenment activities of various organizations, especially the National Child Labor Committee, the legislatures of several states had enacted restrictive legislation that led to sharp reductions in the number of children employed in industry.
The U.S. Congress, in 1916, passed a law that set a national minimum age of 14 in industries producing non-agricultural goods for interstate commerce or export. In 1918, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that the legislation was an unconstitutional infringement on personal freedom. The following year, the Congress tried another strategy to establish protection for child workers through taxation of employers. But in 1022 the Child Labor Tax Law, as it was known, was ruled unconstitutional for being overly “prohibitory and regulatory.” In 1924, both houses of Congress passed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, empowering Congress to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons less than 18 years of age.
Even though the reluctance of state legislators to ratify the child-labor amendment, legislative attempts to deal with the problem nationally continued, notably during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The National Industrial recovery Act, passed by Congress in 1933, established a minimum age of 16 for workers in most industries. In hazardous industries a minimum age level of 18 was established. This law contributed to a great decrease in the number of yond workers, but the Supreme Court ruled the act unconstitutional in 1935. In the next year the Congress passed the Walsh-Healey Act, which prohibits firms producing goods under federal government contract from employing boys and girls less than 16 years of age.
The nest important legislation on the problem was the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, better known as the Federal Wage and Hour Law. This act was declared constitutional in 1941 by the Supreme Court, which overruled its former child-labor decision under a more liberal way of the commerce clause of the constitution. The Fair Labor Standards Act, amended in 1949, applies to all workers engaged in interstate or foreign commerce. Under the child-labor provisions of the act, minors 16 years of age and over may be employed in any occupation that has not been judged hazardous by the secretary of labor.
The minimum age for work in industries classified as hazardous is 18. No minimum age is set for non-hazardous agricultural employment after school hours and during vacation. Minors 14 and 15 years of age may be employed in a variety of non-manufacturing, non-mining, and non-hazardous of occupations outside school hours and during vacations for limited hours and under other specified conditions of work.
Every state today has child-labor laws. In most states employment of minors under 16 in factories and during school hours is not allowed. Other provisions include 40 hour work week, working at night is prohibited, and work permits for minors under 18. Children working on farms are not completely protected by federal and state laws, which make no provisions for hazardous farm work outside school hours.
The children of migratory workers, who move from harvest to harvest across the United States, are usually not subject to state laws because they do not fulfill residency requirements, and they are often unable to attend local schools, which have no provisions for seasonal increases in school enrollment. Other children exempted from federal and state labor laws are children employed as actors and performers in radio, television, and motion pictures, as newspaper deliverers and sales personnel, or as part-time workers at home.
In the early 21st century, child labor remains a serious problem in many parts of the world. Studies show carried out in 1979, the International year of the child, show that more than 50 million children below the age of 15 were working in various jobs often under hazardous conditions. Many of those children live in poorer/under-developed countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Living Conditions are crude and their chances for education are very small.
The little income they get is necessary for their family’s survival. These families lack the basic necessities that we take for granted like adequate food, decent clothing and shelter, and even water for bathing. In some countries industrialization has created working conditions for children that rival the worst features of the 19th century factories and mines. In India, around 20,000 children work 16 hour days in match factories.
Child-labor problems don’t just happen in small undeveloped countries they happen all over the place even in America today. The most important effort to eliminate child-labor abuses through out the world come from the International Labor Organization, founded in 1919 and now a special agency of the United Nations. The organization has introduced several child-labor conventions among its members, including a minimum age of 16 years for admission to all work, a higher minimum age for specific types of employment, medical exams, and regulation of night work. In the late 20th century the ILO added to this list of the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, prostitution, debt bondage(where children had to work to pay off loans made to their parents), and forced military service.