The existence of child labor is a prominent human rights issue in today’s world. The United Nations defines child labor as any work completed by children who have not yet reached the minimum legal age required for either a specific kind of work or any work that is generally viewed as unacceptable for children. Unacceptable work usually involves potential harm, dangerous conditions or physical strain unsuitable for underage youth.
To combat this issue, it is important to understand pertinent child labor facts. This knowledge will allow people to fully realize how many young workers never have the chance to be children:
- Child labor is incredibly common and internationally practiced, and has affected billions of young lives. During the Industrial Revolution, employers sought out child workers because they could pay them lower wages, use their size as an advantage and benefit from their obedience. For years children made up a large majority of the labor force, and it wasn’t until the Great Depression that labor reforms began.
- Even though child labor is prohibited in the United States, many other countries still exploit child workers. According to Free the Children, there are approximately 218 million child workers worldwide.
- Many child workers are forced to work under hazardous conditions. Approximately 115 million children out of the aforementioned 218 million work in unsafe environments according to the International Labor Organization. This type of work is considered to be among the worst forms of child labor, especially since children are at greater risk of injuries and accidents.
- Many children work out of necessity. In developing countries, it is common practice for kids to find work so that they can help provide for the family. In some cases, children are exposed to slavery, illegal activities and even armed conflict.
- These children do not receive proper care or education. If there are no child labor laws in place, children work most of the day without receiving necessary nutrients or food and according to Free the Children, approximately 57 million children do not attend school. These limitations hinder children from reaching their full educational potential or advancing in the workforce.
Even though there has been a significant decline in the number of child workers, this is only a moderate decrease compared to the total number of children who are forced to work. As demonstrated by the facts above, this issue is still very present today, and perpetuates the cycle of poverty in developing countries.
– Meghan Orner