Do you own an iPhone? How about an iPad? Technology juggernaut Apple Inc. recently published an audit of the 451 plants, based in Asia, contracted as suppliers for Apple products. Of almost 1.5 million workers, Apple discovered 23 underage workers. Last year, the company discovered 74 underage workers. According to the report, workers could not exceed 60 hours per week.

Apple’s findings fall short in comparison to the growing number of underage workers in the child labor epidemic. What epidemic?

Child labor is the illegal use of hiring or forcing children to work in a business. Commonly, these working conditions are dangerous, hazardous, and inhumane. Not only are children working in dangerous work environments, they are not attending school. According to the University of Iowa, 75 million children did not attend school because of child labor.

According to the International Labor Organization, there are 215 million children between the ages of five and 17 working in illegal labor.

Here are some potential characteristics of child labor:

  • Ignores national and global human rights
  • Undermines child labor laws
  • Positions children in dangerous working environments
  • Involves some type of abuse toward the child

Child labor occurs mainly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. However, child labor occurs across the globe. Here are a list of various industries where children are working:

  • Agriculture. Sixty percent of child labor occurs in commercial agriculture. Children working in this industry work long hours, are vulnerable to pesticides, and receive little pay
  • Manufacturing. Fourteen million children work in manufacturing
  • Mining. Children who work in this industry are vulnerable to physical harm
  • Child trafficking. Over six million children are forced into bondage, serfdom, or sexual exploitation. The New York Daily News recently published an article that exploiting Perusian children being sold into sex slavery

Primary Cause of Child Labor

The primary cause of child labor is poverty. As families struggle to acquire basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing, families become desperate to make ends meet. Here are some facts about the severity of global poverty provided by UNICEF:

  • 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation
  • 1 billion children are deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development
  • 22 million infants are not protected from diseases by routine immunization
  • 4 million newborns worldwide are dying in the first month of life
  • 101 million children are not attending primary school

As these states show, global poverty is a serious epidemic.

Without access to basic needs and steady income, child labor has spread. Anecdotes about child labor are plentiful online. The common thread among these anecdotes is that fact that poor children are being forced to work long hours in dangerous environments, and they are not being paid. Poor safety conditions contribute to the illnesses, deaths, and injuries afflicted on innocent children.

Poor safety perpetuates the cycle of poverty and child labor. As one child dies or becomes terminally ill, another child is forced to work in illegal conditions.

– Leonard Wilson, Jr. 

Sources: Child Labor Public Education Project, NY Daily News, Reuters
Photo: The Hindu