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Child Labor and Society: A Detrimental Situation
Child labor is detrimental to the well-being of the subject as well as the society to which he belongs. Throughout history, sundry civilizations have borne witness to the harsh reality termed as "child labor." The agrarian realm enlisted the help of small hands from the beginning of time. Innocent children as young as six or seven persevered in arduous working conditions on farms. However, the Industrial Revolution escalated this cruel trend to new heights. A job in the factory now meant twelve to eighteen hours of work a day, six days a week. The early and mid-1800s foresaw the release of litigation that addressed the issue of child labor for the first time (Online). Despite the fact that child labor has been globally condemned for almost two centuries, there is a long way to go.
It is one of the most pressing social problems that exist in diverse sects across the world, yet what does child labor truly mean? It is "work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development" (International Child Labor). The process of indulging in child labor is harmful to the child emotionally, bodily, and psychologically. It takes away the simple and basic human right of childhood away. The child would spend his time in the premises of his workplace, instead of in an educational environment.
Despite the guidelines provided in the Minimum Age Convention No. 138 (1973) and the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention No. 182 (1999); there are approximately two hundred and fifteen million children around the globe engaged in some form of economic activity (International Child Labor) The denial of primary instruction to these children prevents them from attaining higher levels of education and the country to which they belong pays an indescribable cost by losing out on what they may have to offer.
The writer William E. Harmon stated in his paper in 1909 that at his time, there was little statistical evidence to support that fact. However, through personal observation of variant American families whose unfortunate circumstances necessitated children to venture towards hard labor, he deducted that there was a prominent difference in the ability of the child. Harmon perceived children at the age of twelve who were equally intelligent. A few were subjected to the realities that physical labor brought and others had opportunity to further their education. Their eyes and their ambitions were different when observed again at the age of sixteen. Those who had worked diligently to earn had "much of the light of intelligence pass out." (Harmon). This implies that these innocent souls may not aspire to be much in life and instead of being able to develop their mental capabilities at a prime age; they had to dedicate themselves to earning a livelihood instead. This, in turn, has an adverse impact on society as well as those very children could have contributed in more significant ways, such as becoming doctors to the poor, offering expert legal advice to those who cannot afford it.
The trend of child labor began to be recognized as a burden on community in the United States of America in the second half of the 19th century, yet at the state echelon. Children who were exposed to the lesser of the working evils indulged in street trade; tasks that included polishing shoes, delivering newspapers etc. The ones who were not as fortunate were placed in farms, mines, or factories. Child labor in the agricultural segment in the States has been highly condemned throughout history. It is often studied separately. (Whittaker).
There is a huge variation between farms possessed by families and those farms that are owned by large multinationals. Those that involve the latter utilize heavy equipment and tools. Children as young as seven or eight toil on these farms for about fourteen to sixteen hours every day of the week. They work in hazardous and uncomfortable conditions for barely $2.38 average an hour. The opportunity cost to the child laborers is much higher as they are not sitting in the safe sanctuary of a classroom and exploring their intellectual growth. (Adame)
The physical advancement and health of a child is compromised due to the nature of his job. Mesfin, a 16-year-old boy from Ethiopia developed eye sight problems due to weaving conventional cotton garments. This is just one instance that is being mentioned. Surveys in twenty six countries conducted by the International Labor Organization discovered that almost one in every four children suffer an injury due to their work. Perceived as an inexpensive source of labor, children are given labor intensive jobs in unsafe environments such as cleaning tools and applying adhesives. There is a strong dearth of training and supervision. A study in the United States concluded that 80% of injuries occur when the supervisor was not present. (Know Your Child)
An analysis of effects of work on the growth of small male Jordanian children (aged ten to sixteen) was conducted and results illustrated that they were "at the risk of stunting, wasting and anemia." Many of them had also begun smoking at this tender age. Another study of two hundred randomly selected boys from thirty two workshops in Peshawar, Pakistan (aged six to fifteen). Forty percent were involved in mechanical labor. It was concluded that thirty one percent had water eyes, twenty nine percent had chronic cough and twenty two percent were exposed to diarrhea while thirty eight percent were subjected to major injuries. (A. A. Thabet) This proves that there is a definite link in the deterioration of child's health vs. strenuous, physical labor.
Some advocates of child labor argue that poverty stricken children have a right to work so as to contribute to their familial income. (Woodward). Another point-of-view states that there are certain special machines that can only be run by the diminutive hands of a child, a process which often results in stunted growth. Although there are divergent perspectives towards this issue, this paper asserts that child labor is damaging to his or her well being.
Child labor is often conducted in unsafe and hazardous environments. Young field workers on farms that spray pesticides suffer from headaches, sleep disorders, and countless other difficulties. They have to perform their duties without proper protection for their hands and without the right kind of equipment. (Sherer Jennifer)
Often, an informal and verbal agreement exists merely between the child and his contractor. As the whole purpose of employing an underage child with a limited set of skills is to indulge in cost savings; it is not surprising that there is no written document. Given the fact that these children are barely six or older, it is rare if the child can read. He is exposed to uncomfortable and even extreme conditions at work that may include extended contact to heat (in production or agriculture), dusty, sunny or windy dryness, exposure to chemical solutions, toxic discharges, and strenuous transportation of heavy materials to different points. All this increases the likelihood of these poor children to suffer from problems with their spine, skin diseases, stunted growth, burns, and heart trouble. (Mendelievich)
The same children who are unable to gain access to greater standards of living are left behind feeling frustrated and angry at the society. They are not just absent from stimulating environments that will encourage the growth of their intellect, yet are also not present in their own homes. The ability to differentiate between right and wrong is not enhanced. The societal norms of morality, ethics and values are not instilled in them as aggressively as done so in other households. The child is also exposed to the harms and vices out there on the streets. This burdens the child and hinders the true development of his personality. It is the government that is unable to implement reforms for their protection forcing them to grow up looking for alternate, and possibly illegal, means of income that may provide them a higher quality of life. The child has no choice as he is unable to learn a trade that a true skill that will benefit him in the future. There is extreme pressure that is placed on the child's sensitive organism that affects his ability to focus for a long period of time.
The communal quandary of child labor is a worldwide phenomenon. Regulation and law concerning it is weak in developing economies. One would assume that in a thriving nation such as the United States of America, this problem would, if not eliminated completely, at least be under optimal supervision and appropriate control. However, it will be disheartening to learn that corporate America has not yet liberated itself from the unethical practice of child labor. The leading chocolate giant of Hershey was accused of not enforcing enough regulations in its cocoa production in West Africa. It holds 42.5% of the market and has not taken proper measures to eradicate child labor…[continue]
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