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A study on the role of child labor in developing countries in the 21st century Essay

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What role does child labor play in developing countries in the 21st century?

Child labor is currently one of the most destructive obstacles to stand in the way of social development from taking place. In developing countries in the twenty-first century, child labor is considered to be a serious issue. According to the World without work (Thompson) in some areas of the world society has a heavy reliance on machines and automated labor. While in other areas, primarily developing countries there is a heavy reliance on child labor.

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In the Myth of Sisyphus (Camus) the main character works continuously with no purpose, however, in reality, individuals in developing countries have to contend with the idea of working towards the idea of survival. Recently the International Labour Organization (ILO,2013) estimated there are around 215 million children between the ages five to fourteen who works worldwide. They are often mistreated and work for prolonged hours, in very bad conditions. This can affect their health physically, mentally and emotionally. These children do not have the basic rights like access to school or health care. This can have adverse effects on future generations, making the country’s situation even worse.

According to a multitude of diverse scholars, the term child labor has several definitions. According to Suda(2011), the term child labor refers to when children are working in any type of work that is dangerous and harmful to children’s health or the work hinders their education. For Moyi (2011) child labor refers to low wages, long hours, physical and sexual abuse. According to Edmonds and Pavcnik (2005), child labor is viewed as a form of child labor abuse when children work in bad conditions and hazardous occupations. In developing countries, child labor is primarily caused by poverty, inequality, a slow transition of demographics, and a dependence on farm labor. Regarding the reason as to why families end up deciding to send their children into the workforce it usually has to do with spacing and birth order of children, and the number. When a child enters the labor force at such a young age it perpetuates familial poverty throughout several generations. This, in turn, will result in the lack of social growth and development and economic growth. It is this institution of child labor that prevents young children both boys and especially girls from obtaining the proper and fundamental education required for individuals to eventually obtain work opportunities that will result in a proper future for the rest of their familial generations. It is evident that “ The incidence of child labor is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa followed by Asia and the Pacific. The prevalence of child labor is very high in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Nigeria.About 48 million child laborers across sub-Saharan Africa, including 15 million in Nigeria engaged in child labor “(Ajakaye,2013). According to LUP (2002), it is apparent that some government agencies are attempting to alleviate this child labor situation while others are either in support or remain idle because they desire the quick and easy economic benefits. What they fail to bring into consideration is the future of the people and the country. It is not an economically nor is it a socially viable solution to continue down the path that involves child labor.


In the twentieth century employing children created no serious social issues. It was only when the idea of factory systems was implemented that social issues began to develop and change. It was after factories were implemented children ended up working for little amounts of money. Their money made a bit of an impact on the incomes that families made. Thus children spent more time in these so-called sweatshops and less time in the classroom. This resulted in children becoming uneducated. Uneducated themselves, and their children uneducated as well a cycle began to continue. Thus people and families wound up in a vicious cycle with no way to get out. “The first federal child labor law was passed in the U.S. Congress in 1916. This law “set standards for the hiring of children by industries involved in interstate or foreign commerce”( Unicef). In developing countries, there are minute protections for children primarily because of how difficult it is to get people out of the vicious cycle. According to a study done in (2007) on child labor in Luanda, Angola conducted by ICF International Inc partnered with an organization in Angola, Austral COWI, discovered that “There is a large gap between the educational attainment of children who are working in their teen years (ages 14 to 17) when a child should be attending secondary school. Only 30.0 percent of children who have completed some secondary school were working. At each progressively lower attainment group, this figure becomes higher (42.4 percent for primary complete, 58.8 percent for primary incomplete, and 72 percent for those with no formal education)”. This study ended up revealing to the local government in Angola the conditions of work, educational status, and the services that are incorporated into a society that are designed to help the children.

Currently, the elimination of child labor is becoming more of an issue that more and more international organizations are becoming interested and involved in. In order to properly combat the current child labour issue the countries that are affected need to set up programs that provide families with support and awareness, they need to create and implement policies and legislation that will improve the overall well being of the people, and they also need to think about helping the people have more of a say in the companies and having more ownership of the companies within the country. When all of these solutions are implemented in each of the countries there should be a drastic increase in overall social and economic well being. It may not be witnessed instantly, however, it will be observed if not within the generation then within the next generation. The vicious cycle of poverty will then see some substantial changes.



Camus, A. (1942). The Myth of Sysiphus.

Child labor – The British Library. (2009). Retrieved from


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Edmonds, & Pavnick. (2005). Child Labor | Human Rights Watch. Retrieved from


ICF. (2007). Child labor – The British Library. Retrieved from


IL0. (2013). International Labour Office- Questions and Answers on child labor. Retrieved




LUP. (2002). Global – Child Labour – WE. Retrieved from



Moyi, & Child Labor Public Education Project. (2011). Child Labor in U.S. History – The

Child Labor Education Project. Retrieved from


Suda. (2011). Child Labor – Facts & Summary – HISTORY.com. Retrieved from


Thompson. (2015). A World Without Work – The Atlantic. Retrieved from


Unicef. (2015). Background Information on Child Labour – World Day Against Child Labour,

12 June. Retrieved from


Unicef. (2016). Child labor | Child protection from violence, exploitation, and abuse |

UNICEF. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/protection/57929_child_labour.html

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