Child labor can be factually defined as “exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives them of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially and morally harmful.” It is an ancient practice but climbed up its highest peak during industrial revolution. The industrial revolution was a significant event and had profound impacts all over the world. It first began in Britain, in 1700. It became a common feature as children as young as 4 years old was employed in mines and industries.
How industrial revolution impacted child labor?
The industrial revolution increased the demand for unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. The children were an ideal choice because they could be exploited easily with less pay and more working hours. Moreover, they were young and were unable to make unions go on strikes against their noxious working conditions. They were also more likely to complete the given tasks on time and accept punishments.
Before the industrial revolution, women played an important role in the manufacturing industry. However, it was a relatively small part of the economy and had little demand for laborers. Upgradation in the manufacturing industry increased the demand for laborers, and hence, child labor.
Children performed various kinds of jobs such as working on machines, selling newspapers, sweeping chimneys, and much more. Sometimes, they were preferred to adults because they could easily fit into small spaces between machines. Their pay merely consisted of 10%-20% of what adults earned for the same work.
The industrial revolution consisted of few and liberal government laws. This is why children had to work longer hours, less pay and perform dangerous work. They would lose their limbs while working with machines and often developed lung diseases while working in mines with less ventilation. They worked for almost 20 hours a day, and sometimes even all day. Most of them were orphans who had no choice but to work to feed their empty stomachs.
Other causes of child labor
There are mainly two reasons promoting child labor:
Their parents or guardians believe that it’s normal for them to work.
They had to work to feed themselves and sometimes, also support their family.
Other causes which fueled the growth of child labor
Poverty Poverty is one of the major causes of child labor. They form a vicious cycle, without stopping one, we cannot tackle another. When families are unable to meet their regular needs, they have to force their children to work or beg on the streets. Sometimes, they also chop off their limbs to gain sympathy and pity and send them to beg.
Education Lack of accessible education is one of the most contributing factors in child labor. Growing up uneducated, it becomes almost impossible to land a decent and well-paying job. This leads to financial problems in the family. They may not be able to support their children’s education and start working at an early age. This forms a vicious cycle. Quality education should be provided free of cost or at at least affordable price to put an end to this.
Lack of decent work Children often want to start working at a young age and support their families. Unavailability of a decent work environment forces children to work in hazardous areas. A decent work environment includes fair pay, healthy and safe working conditions, and equality between men and women. Due to the growing population and lack of employment, it is often difficult for children to find such places to work.
Misconceptions One of the reasons children are forced to work by their families is that they think it is normal to start working at a young age. However, they often overlook the working conditions. Some cultural and social norms also lead to child labor.
Violation of the Law Existing laws and codes of conduct are often violated because they are not strictly implemented and people fail to agree or understand the motive behind them. Labor departments are understaffed and underfunded to strictly enforce the prevailing laws. For example, despite promoting free education for children in many countries, 27 million children all over the world remain uneducated.
Effects of child labor
Child labor exercises severe and long-term effects on the children and their families. It also interferes with their education and keep them deprived of a decent life.
Working in hazardous working conditions tends to develop various health complications among children. Some of these include arthritis, chronic back problems, reduced strength and stamina, and various mental health problems.
Children who start working from a young age leave school earlier. They show less or no interest in attaining education.
It encourages students to leave education at an early age. This makes them unable to get decent-paying jobs later on in life.
They usually have a family to support them. When one child starts working from an early age, their siblings are expected to join them later, promoting this cruel practice.
Child labor increases the number of unskilled laborers. It stops the advancement of technology and leads to adopting unfavorable production methods, according to labor’s capabilities. This in turn reduces the overall economic growth.
How to tackle it?
Spread awareness Spreading awareness about the cruelty of child labor will help to stop parental disruption in providing education to children. Parents who continue to remain under the misconception that it is good for children to start working even if it compromises their education and safety encourages traffickers to prey on their children. It will also help to wipe out this brutal practice and create a better environment where children suffer less. With the rise of social media, it is now easier than ever to communicate with people worldwide. People will stand up against the problem when they know it. Spread awareness about it and help all of us to fight against it.
Effective implementation of laws People do not follow the existing laws strictly. The responsible departments are underfunded and understaffed which prevents them from conducting deep research on the issue and taking strict action against it. Moreover, government and judicial bodies as a whole should form stricter laws and enforce them effectively. Employers of child labors should be strictly punished.
Help NGOs and other bodies Numerous non-government organizations are formed to help in fighting against this barbaric practice of child labor. They work to strictly enforce the existing laws. They work with state and national-level authorities to fight against child exploitation. Moreover, they also offer immediate aid to victims and offer them a better future. Volunatarily made donations makes up for a large part of their total funds. Therefore, donate, volunteer and support.
Manufacturers and retailers There are numerous shop owners who employ children to work in their shops or restaurants. They pay them less and make them work harder every day. Stop buying products or availing services from places encouraging child labor. If these companies go down, there would be no one to employ children in these hazardous places.
Child labor is a cruel practice going on for centuries. Numerous factors promote this but unless we individually take a step against this, nothing will change. Childhood is the best and most important of one’s life. It shapes one’s adulthood and there’s nothing worse than exploiting it. While it’s good to start working at a young age, considering the working conditions should be a priority. We as an individual can stop this cruel practice by taking a step against it. Stop employing child laborers, stop purchasing from places encouraging child labor, and report their employer to higher authorities.