Cultural Studies Essays - Child Labor

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Child Labor

Every day children around the world are treated different ways, some good some bad, but there is one thing that people cannot avoid when it comes to talking about children around the world. That one thing is called child labor. Every day children are used for their labor, in some places a lot of it goes on and people do not see it as something bad, just a part of everyday life. In order to determine whether it is bad or not one must know what child labor is, so what exactly is child labor, and where did it begin? Child labor can be defined as children being used for labor that do not get paid much and are usually in hazardous environments. According to UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, "Child laborers around the world, most of who are engaged in extreme and hazardous forms of work, are being robbed of their fundamental rights, not only including the right to develop to the fullest through education, but the right to a childhood"(ILO). Child labor began in eighteen century in Great Britain. Before children were employed they had been apprentices. Child labor first became to be a social problem when factory systems where introduced. The first form of this child labor was considered more of a type of slavery. Orphans were the ones that were more susceptible to the first type of child labor. Although a lot of European countries had set up child labor laws, World War II brought along the need for materials and necessary tools for war, which brought the children back into the workforce. "Congressional child labor laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1918 and 1922. A constitutional amendment was passed in Congress in 1924 but was not approved by enough states.”(Encyclopedia) This is when child labor was only just starting to become a big social issue. The First Labor Standards Act of 1938 set a minimum age limit of 18 for occupations designated hazardous, 16 for employment during school hours for companies engaged in interstate commerce, and 14 for employment outside school hours in nonmanufacturing companies.”(Encyclopedia)

"In the last fifty years, the world population has tripled, with the most growth occurring in developing countries. Significant economic and social changes have displaced many people to urban centers and their outskirts, leaving a large unemployed, uncertain population vulnerable to exploitation. Combined with government and police corruption, these factors have led to the proliferation of modern day slavery.”(YAPI) " Children that are not even the age of children attending high school are working. These children will never get to know what it is like to be a kid, to go out and have fun and play. These children also do not get to experience what it is like to have a caring and loving family because they are either always working, or will never have time to see their parents while they are working. "Some are denied freedom of movement-the right to leave the workplace and go home to their families. Some are abducted and forced to work.”(Human) It is estimated that about 120 million children between the ages of five and fourteen work at least full time (ILO). A number like 120 million is unbelievable, but is the sad truth. A lot of teenagers in America do not even have part-time jobs, let alone a full time job. Two-hundred-forty-six million children are used in child labor around the world. It is not bad enough that so many children are used in child labor but also seventy-three million of the children workers are less than 10 years old (Free). "Between 15 and 20 million children are working as slaves at this very moment”(YAPI) Children that are 10 years old or younger should not have to be thinking about working. They should not have to be worrying whether or not they can make enough money to help support their family and have enough food to survive through one more day, or make enough money so that their parents can buy them back from their bonded servitude. Children of that age should be out having fun with their friends and just being a kid, living in their own perfect world where the work "job” does not exist. Child labor is used all around the world even in places where there are laws that prohibit it. It is used as cheep labor to get jobs done and work in conditions that most people in the U.S. would not even consider working in. Most of the jobs that children have in child labor have horrible working conditions which are hazardous to their health and is a threat to their lives. Some of the unsafe working conditions are not having the proper safety equipment needed to work in the job they are working, and a lot of the time this is because safety wear and uniforms are not designed around the idea that children are going to be working these kinds of jobs. The types of hazards that these children face when working rage from not having the proper safety equipment to having hazardous material in the environment that can cause them to get diseases and respiratory problems from breathing air filled with floating debris, to intolerable noise levels that unquestionably can lead to given the children hearing loss.

If all this work is bad for children then why does so much of it go on? There are several reasons why child labor exists. One of the reasons is poverty. Some families need as many family members as they can have working in order to support their family and have enough income to survive. Another reason that children work is that there might not be any type of school or somewhere to get an education that they can go to, so instead they work to help their family. The size of the child’s family is another reason why there are child laborers. "Poor households tend to have more children, and with large families there is a greater likelihood that children will work and have lower school attendance and completion.”(Free). Families that live in poverty tend to have a lot of children because they need them to work in order to support the family, but this does not always help because a lot of the jobs that children work do not pay very well. Some people employ children because they figure that they can pay children less and that children will not complain about poor working conditions. "They think that children are less likely to complain. In some cases, there may be a lack of decent jobs for adults.”(Free) This is more common in lower economy countries and is not usually heard of in the United States. A lot of child labor is done with the child knowing that they have to work because they need to make money to help their family financially and that there is no other choice. Some countries economic system is set up to where families have to have their children working in order to be able to live day to day. Their economic system does not allow there to be a more balanced out social class. In other words there are people that are either very wealthy or people that live in poverty, and nothing in-between the both.

This is why child labor is not as common in the United States as in other countries because the economic system is set up in a way to where child labor is not necessary. The jobs that child laborers have vary a lot, but for the main part a lot of child laborers work in agricultural fields. "Child labor ranges from four-year-olds tied to rug looms to keep them from running away, to seventeen-year-olds helping out on the family farm.”(Human) "Agricultural Fields and Farms (75% of child laborers work in agricultural related activities, often under dangerous conditions. It appears that child labor is more common in countries with very unequal income distribution and with a high dependence on agriculture).”(Free). Children are forced to work in the fields with chemicals and a wide variety or pesticides that can cause health problems to them in the future. There are different types of health problems that children can encounter from pesticides and can get these problems in different ways. Problems can be cause from "oral exposure (when you swallow a pesticide), inhalation exposure (when you inhale a pesticide), ocular exposure (when you get a pesticide in your eyes), or dermal exposure (when you get a pesticide on your skin)”(Pested). "Acute oral effects – Your mouth, throat, and stomach can be burned severely by some pesticides. Other pesticides that you swallow will not burn your digestive system, but will be absorbed and carried in your blood throughout your body and may cause you harm in various ways. For some pesticides, swallowing even a few drops from a splash or wiping your mouth with a contaminated glove can make you very ill or make it difficult to eat and drink and get nourishment.”(Pested) This is just one of the effects that is considered to be acute, "Acute effects are illnesses or injuries that may appear immediately after exposure to a pesticide (usually within 24 hours).”(Pested), but a lot of these children that work in agriculture are exposed to pesticides more a much longer period of time and therefore suffer from more serious long term effects, chronic effects. "Chronic effects – Chronic effects are illnesses or injuries that appear a long time, usually several years, after exposure to a pesticide.”(Pested) Some of the chronic effects are "production of tumors, production of malignancy or cancer, and changes in the genes or chromosomes”(Pested). These children have to put up with this type of dangerous work because they have no choice to and they need the money. Most adults would wear protective equipment and uniform when working with pesticides, but most of the time safety is not a major concern to the employer and thus protective wear and uniform is not always available for the children. "Domestic Service (This is possibly the single largest employer of young girls worldwide, and one of the most hidden. It is estimated that 20-60% of all working children are girls in domestic service. Because these girls work out of sight within private households they are extremely vulnerable to physical, mental and sexual abuse).” (Free). This is yet another downside to child labor. Some girls that are used as maids and other types of household jobs, like housekeepers, are susceptible to a different kind of danger, such as being abused by their employer, or owner, and even sexually molested. Another type of child labor is bonded child labor. Bonded child labor is "when a family receives an advance payment (sometimes as little as U.S. $15) to hand a child-boy or girl-over to an employer.”(Human). Usually a child cannot work and make enough to pay of the debt and the family can raise enough money to buy their child back. Bonded labor was outlawed "by the 1956 U.N. Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery.”(Human) Bonded slavery is a type a child labor but is more severe because of the fact that the way bonded labor is set up. The way it is set up is that most of the time it makes it impossible for the parents to make enough money to buy their children back from servitude and further more not see their children ever again. A lot of this bonded labor is still going on and usually happens in India where children work in the silk industry. One of the stories of how children are abused is shown here: "Two years ago at the age of seven, Anwar started weaving carpets in a village in Pakistan's province of Sindh. He was given some food, little free time, and no medical assistance. He was told repeatedly that he could not stop working until he earned enough money to pay an alleged family debt. He was never told who in his family had borrowed money nor how much he had borrowed. Any time he made an error with his work, he was fined and the debt increased. Once when his work was considered to be too slow, he was beaten with a stick. Once after a particularly painful beating, he tried to run away, only to be apprehended by the local police who forcibly returned him to the carpet looms.”(Human) Practices like these go on all the time in with Indian child labor. "Working at rug looms, for example, has left children disabled with eye damage, lung disease, stunted growth, and a susceptibility to arthritis as they grow older.”(Human) With all of this child labor that’s going on there has to be some sort of law preventing this kind of child abuse. One thing that prevents almost all child labor in the United States is The Fair Labor Standards Act. The Fair Labor and Standard Act.(FLSA) "establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments. The FLSA's child labor provisions are designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and prohibit their employment in jobs and under conditions detrimental to their health or well-being.”(Child) This is what keeps children from working in unnecessary and harmful conditions, and it keeps children that are very young from working certain jobs.

There are minimum age restrictions, restrictions on how long they can work, and jobs that children under a certain age can not work. "10- and 11-year-olds may perform jobs on farms owned or operated by parent(s), or with a parent's written consent, outside of school hours in nonhazardous jobs on farms not covered by minimum wage requirements. 12- and 13-year-olds may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs, either with a parent's written consent or on the same farm as the parent(s). 14- and 15-year-olds may perform any non-hazardous farm job outside of school hours.”(Child) Ten is the youngest age allowable under law for children to work. When compared to the seventy-three million of the children workers that are less than 10 years old who are used for child labor that number is shocking. "Children 14 and 15 Years of Age, During the school year, hours are limited to 3 hours a day and 18 hours a week.”(Child) Up to a maximum of three hours a day is the amount a time a fourteen of fifteen year old can work. Most of the time it is very uncommon to find children working that are the ages of ten or eleven in the United States, the only think that is close to work that a child that young would do in the U.S. is maybe clean their room, or pick up their toys. The only exception to this would be children working on their parents farm. Even children that are old enough to work are limited to how many hours they work by law. Compared to child laborers, child laborers work very long hours, up to more than some adults work over time in the United States. They work many hours with little rest in hazardous working conditions and with very little, less than minimum in the U.S., or no pay because of the bonded slavery. These children sometimes work from sun up to sun down with few or no breaks and harsh treatment. These children are exposed to much long lasting effects "Children who work long hours, often in dangerous and unhealthy conditions, are exposed to lasting physical and psychological harm.”(Human) These children are treated like as if they were not even human beings. Because it is the only choice they have there is nothing that can do about it and their need of education that they can not have makes the even more susceptible to this treatment without them knowing that they could do something better. "Denied an education and a normal childhood, some children are confined and beaten, reduced to slavery."