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Child Labor

I. Introduction: Child Labor Incidents

Child Labor is a global moral crisis. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) in a 1998 study, there are about 250 million children in the world, aged 5 to 14, who work full time to earn a daily wage (“Eliminating Child Labor”, 2001). Moreover, there are about 150 to 200 million children, majority of them are girls, who work to provide for their families. In most of the countries were child labor is widespread, some 80% of working children get to work 7 days a week. In Asia, 90 million children are laborers. In South Asian countries, there is an increasing number of incidents where young girls are taken to prostitution and sexual harassment. Meanwhile, the ILO found out that boys aged between 6 and 10 are shipped to the Middle East because they are preferred to become came race jockeys. In Africa, about 33% of children sell their labor. Indeed, Africa has he highest proportion of child laborers in the world. More than 70% of children in Sierra Leone and Niger work (Allison, 2003). And in all, there are about one in every three African children working on a daily basis.

In Latin America, there are about 5.1 million children working as common laborers. What is most surprising, however, is that child labor still persists even in developed countries. In Spain and in other Western European countries, the average number of child laborers per countries is about 100,000. In the United Kingdom, the number is staggering: 40% of the children involved in labor are even illegal (“Eliminating Child Labor”, 2001). In the entire developing world, there is just the cold hard fact that 19% of all children work.

II. Children Exploitation

The worse forms of child labor are those that let children work in hazardous environments. Hundreds of boys in Colombia work in a labor-intensive coal mines. Because of their diminutive sizes, Colombian children are the ones who are told to slip through low and narrow passageways to pick small coals. (Weiss man, 1997). And then these children carry sacks of coal out of the open. Exposed to high levels of dust, most of these children grow up with lung diseases. In Cambodia, children work in brick factories, often laboring bare-handed and bare-footed. Bricks breaking one’s feet or hands are common and many are cut while working with heavy machinery. The biggest complaint, however, wasn’t the high incidents of injury, but of fatigue. These children, when interviewed by the Asian-American Free Labor Institute, were discovered to have been laboring because of their debt with their employer. Burma, Thailand, Nepal, India, Vietnam and Cambodia are countries with high incidence of young girls being sold to prostitution, which markets prostitution to Europe, Middle East, Australia, Hawaii, Japan—you name it.

The following just mentioned are forms of child labors at its worse form. The UNICEF and other international agencies all state that the most despicable child laborers are those that are similar to slavery—indeed, like the trafficking of children, serfdom, forced labor, and serfdom. We have seen in Sierra Leone and in some parts of African that children are even used in armed conflict. Oftentimes, the children’s parents accrue debt that they pledge their sons and daughters to pay for it. Although, debts are small, the children lose their entire childhood—and in some cases, their entire lives—to pay off the debt that is often built by a fraudulent accounting mechanism employed by the debt holders (Ibid). This is a usual practice in Nepal, wherein they call their bonded laborers as “Kamaiya”, which keeps families in debt for generations. But it is in India and Pakistan that debt bondage is most pervasive because it is supported by longstanding traditions against low caste groups and/or minority ethnic groups.

III. When Child Labor became a World Crisis

Child labor has existed for centuries. It has only come to light as a problem in the early 20thcentury, when Lewis Parker, a South Carolina cotton miller owner, testified against a proposed Congressional legislation that would outlaw child labor completely in the United States. What made child labor a problem was that there were people supporting it despite being immoral, and they were doing it in the name of their individual business. Fortunately, history was enlightened enough to point out that Parker was wrong. Later, most U.S. states have stopped the use of Child labor. Starting in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson regulated child labor; and in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act completely banned child labor. It would take several more years to enforce this law throughout the country; still, the United States was one of the first countries in the world to have effectively eradicated it. Now, the debate of child labor reaches a worldwide scale. And it has become a global crisis because what Lewis Parker was clamoring against is being replayed by third world countries—that child labor is needed in their rising poverty.

Americans were reminded on the presence of child labor beginning with a labor activist who revealed that Kathie Lee Grifford’s, a day-time talk show host, line of sportswear was made by youngsters laboring in long hours in a Honduran sweatshop (Berlau, 1997). Since that time, child labor issues have haunted Capitol Hill. The truth was, the United States has really got rid of child labor, but behind the curtains many U.S. multinational companies have been exploiting it, especially in the apparel industry such as Nike, Reebok, and Liz Claiborne. Consequently, former President Bill Clinton organized an industry wide agreement on U.S. companies not to employ children in their overseas factories. This was coupled with a legislative interference that would ensure that bans and sanctions would be in placed in countries who export products made by children.

One example of such legislation was introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa. In 1992, he introduced the Child Labor Deterrence Act (or simply the Harkin’s bill), which completely banned imported good made by laborers below 14 years of age (Lopez & Calva, 2001). Chris Smith, a former Republican Representative of New Jersey, added to the ban that if countries were found to exploit children as laborers, the U.S. would cut off its foreign aid to them. Smith equated that putting a 9-year-old in a sweatshop is equivalent to slavery or unlawful imprisonment. Smith was particularly adamant against Chinese factories.

IV. Causes of Child Labor

There are numerous factors that contribute to the growth of child labor. The most important one is economic globalization. Because globalization intensified price competition for a global consumer marker, everyone just started to look any means that could lower their cost. Child labor has always been equated with lower cost, because children’s wages are very low, they don’t complain and they easily agree to work long hours with no overtime pay. Indeed, this is the very reason that a number of children are increasing in sewing factories in Haiti, Honduras and Guatemala, who make the products of Disney, Wal-Mart, Philips, Van Heusen, etc (Weiss man, 1997). Unregulated and unchecked, there is truly no stopping the growth of child labor.

But, as empirical evidence shows, the most robust determinant of child labor are still the poverty status of the household and education (Lopez & Calva, 2001). Surprisingly, the wages that the children does not affect the decision of the parents to put their children to work; it only matters to them that because of their poverty status, their children has to work one way or another. Moreover, it has been found that other factors such as cultural traditions, permanent shocks (like divorce), or even the availability of opportunity do not necessarily make the parent decide to put their child to work to replace their schooling. It would take enormous amount of pressure from poverty that leads them place their child to labor—and in many third world countries, many experiences the exact kind of pressure.

At the heart of the debate, there are two competing motivations behind child labor: is it about preference, or is it about constraint. “Would parents prefer to send their children to work if they weren’t facing sever economic constraints? Would parents send their children to work if they really had the opportunity to choose?” (Lopez & Calva, 2001). Basu and Van published their findings in 1998 that proved that child labor was a phenomenon directly related more to constraints and not to preferences.

V. The Great Dilemma behind the Crisis

With poverty as the main determinant of child labor, the United States and other developed countries are met with a more troubling scenario. For instance, in some countries like Ecuador and its banana plantations, who encourages child labor to gain more profit, they actually don’t have any other choice to rise themselves from poverty. So when activists from affluent countries join and group together in a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting, and win the act of banning Ecuador’s products and foreclose them, they are also effectively closing the last major option for the poorest of people (Sowell, 2002). The result is that the activist celebrates their moral victory, but the country they have foreclosed the factories are now a lot poorer.

Here is then the great dilemma facing the child labor crisis. Campaigns against child labor in developing countries can definitely have unintended consequences of endangering children. When children lose their jobs in garment factories, for example, you can bet that they would necessarily go back to school. Oftentimes, they find more dangerous sources of income just to make a living. Indeed, according to Berlau (1997), child labor laws such as the Harkin’s bill could only work in countries with higher standards of living. After gathering evidences, scholars have come to the generalization that its easy for us Americans to label child labor as inhumane and debate against it; it’s easy for the U.S. to tell India or Pakistan to stop child labor “immediately, effectively, or else”; but it’s not easy to have considered the alternatives.

The Harkin’s bill when adopted against Bangladesh was monitored closely by UNICEF. Follow-up visits confirmed that the bill did free the 50,000 children from the garment factories, but it did not answer to the reality of poverty. Children were still trapped in a harsh environment with no skills, no access to education, and no economic alternatives. Thus, they went to new sources of income like street hustling, prostitution, stone-crushing, which are a lot more hazardous than their former job at the garment factory. Furthermore, more mothers quit their jobs to look for their children who have become unemployed, leading to a more impoverished state for families.

The reality in many third world countries is that garment factories serve as lifeblood in the economic survival of the massive poor population. In fact, too many children, especially girls, would even lie about their ages to try to get to work in a garment factory. To them, working there is even prestigious given the fact that its salary and working conditions are comparatively better than other available jobs. Compare this to other jobs like domestic house work in Bangladesh. Not only are these jobs very low paying, but its children get abused.

Child labor issues aren’t a black-and-white debate. Right now, many are realizing that its not like child labor is bad and should be stop, but one also has to consider the enormous consequence of that. Of course, it is morally correct to stop these children from working, but there’s also the economic factor of survival and improving their conditions. It is possible for other countries to outlaw child labor and the united States have to realize that that’s a long term mission. And developed countries should also realize that child-labor laws can only work in third world countries only when its standards of living had risen to a level where it is no longer an economic necessity for children to work (Berlau, 1997). So if you boil down everything together, the greatest enabling factor for social legislation is still economic growth.

VI. How Child Labor Laws and the United Nations are failing

There were some Child labor laws that limit the bringing of goods from foreign country made by children such as the Rug mark program, which was an international project that certified products without the use of child labor. There are others that completely banned such products such as the Harkin’s Bill. But this bill became obsolete once the UNICEF found out that it has unintended consequences of endangering children more. In addition, the bill became controversial as third world non-governmental organizations denounced it as a form of protectionism by unfairly penalizing poor countries (Weiss man, 1997). Meanwhile, United Nations, organizations, and professionals did not attend the children’s program goal. Kawewe and Dibie (1999) argued that the U.N was still unsuccessful to remove obstacles that could have advanced the welfare of children. For example, the U.N. continually fails to challenge some harmful fundamental cultural values and practices such as those traditional discriminatory acts against those belonging in the lower caste groups in India. This failure has led to non-action against children’s exploitation.

VII. Possible Routes to End Child Labor

The Harkin’s bill has been changed when economists participated in its reform. The new version would take action against child labor “under circumstances to involuntary servitude or under exposure to toxic substances or working conditions otherwise posing serious health hazards” (Weiss man, 1997). These changes in the bill are just one of the small steps to do in bringing a total end to global child labor. Certainly, this is a crisis that is hard to solve and would unlikely be solved within the decade. Simple laws of economics—of the law of supply and demand—prevent its eradication. As long as developed countries demand products made by child labors, even unknowingly, then companies would keep doing what their doing, sell it as long as it’s making profit. True, legislation can reduce child labor, but there is always a good chance that employers sneak in a group of children in their factories. Hence, the possible (or perhaps the only) route for ending child labor is to stop our dependence of cheap foreign labor.

VIII. Conclusion

Child labor is a fundamental issue and it is very likely that it would have a future effect on children psychological and physical performance for generations. Fight against child labor is an essential task in order to contribute to the creation of a good policy. Still, there is a long road ahead. Child labor is a direct consequence of poverty and unemployment. To ban the products by child labor would have unintended consequences. The Harkin’s bill, despite its changes, would only work when it regulates products; at the same time, accompanies compulsory schooling and other forms of foreign aid directed to the welfare of the families. In any case, the dimension of the crisis truly deserves more attention both in the economic and public policy circles.


“Eliminating child labor: A look at the present scenario” (2001) The Independent (Bangladesh).Retrieved 3rd of May, 2008, from

Allison, T. (2003) “Solving child labor starts with the United Nations” University Wire. Retrieved 3rd of May, 2008, from

Berlau, J. (1997) “The paradox of child-labor reform” Insight of the News. Retrieved 3rd of May, 2008, from

Kawewe, S. and Dibie, R. (1999) “United Nations and the problem of women and children abuse in Third World nations” Social Justice. Retrieved 3rd of May, 2008, from

Lopez-Calva, L. (2001) “Child labor: myths, theories and facts” Journal of International Affairs.Retrieved 3rd of May, 2008, from

Sowell, T. (2002) “Truth about third world 'exploitation'” Human Events. Retrieved 3rd of May, 2008, from

Weissman, R. (1997) “Stolen youth: brutalized children, globalization and the campaign to end child labor” Multinational Monitor. Retrieved 3rd of May, 2008, from

童工是一个全球性的道德危机。据在美国联合国儿童的基金( UNICEF )和在国际劳动组织( ILO )在1998年的研究中,有是在世界上大约250万儿童,年龄在5岁至14岁,谁的工作充分的时间赚取日薪( “消除童工“,2001年) 。此外,还有约150万至200万儿童,其中大部分是女孩,谁工作,为他们的家庭提供。在大多数国家童工是普遍,约有80%的儿童工作得到一个星期工作7天。在亚洲, 90万儿童的劳动者。在南亚国家中,有越来越多的年轻女孩卖淫和性骚扰事件。与此同时,国际劳工组织发现, 6至10岁的男孩被运送到中东地区是首选,因为他们成为了比赛骑师。在非洲,约33%的儿童出卖自己的劳动力。事实上,非洲,他在世界上的童工比例最高。超过70%的儿童在塞拉利昂和尼日尔的工作(艾里逊,2003年) 。而在所有,大约有在每三个非洲的孩子每天工作之一。
在拉丁美洲,还有约510万儿童工作作为普通劳动者。是什么,然而,最令人惊讶的是,童工仍然存在,即使在发达国家。在西班牙和其他西欧国家,平均每个国家童工数量约10万。在英国,数字是惊人的: 40 %的孩子参与劳动的甚至是非法的( “消除童工劳动” ,2001年) 。在整个发展中世界,仅仅是冰冷坚硬的事实,19%的所有儿童工作。
糟糕形式的童工劳动,让孩子在危险环境中工作。数百名男孩在哥伦比亚工作在一个劳动力密集型的煤矿。因为他们的小尺寸,哥伦比亚的孩子是谁告诉漏网之鱼低,狭窄的通道,挑选小煤。 (魏斯人, 1997年) 。然后这些孩子扛麻袋煤炭出的开放。暴露于高水平的粉尘,这些孩子长大后肺部疾病。在柬埔寨,孩子们在砖厂工作,往往劳动赤手空拳和赤脚。砖块打破一个人的手或脚是常见的,许多被切断,而与重型机械工作。最大的抱怨,然而,事故伤害不高,但疲劳。这些孩子,亚裔美国人的免费劳动研究所采访时,发现已经劳动,因为他们的债务与他们的雇主。缅甸,泰国,尼泊尔,印度,越南和柬埔寨的年轻女孩被卖给卖淫,卖淫销售到欧洲,中东,澳大利亚,夏威夷,日本你的名字与高发病率的国家。
刚才提到的以下形式的童工在其糟糕的形式。儿童基金会和其他国际机构的所有国家,最卑鄙的童工是那些类似奴役的确,像拐卖的儿童,农奴,强迫劳动,和农奴制。我们已经看到了在塞拉利昂和非洲一些地区,孩子们甚至在武装冲突中使用。通常情况下,孩子的父母应计债务,他们的儿子和女儿,他们承诺为它付出。虽然,债务小,孩子们失去他们的整个童年,并在某些情况下,他们的整个生活还清债务,往往是欺诈性的会计机制的债务持有人(同上)所建。这是一个通常的做法,他们称自己的保税劳动者的“包身工” ,这使家庭几代人的债务,其中在尼泊尔。但它是在印度和巴基斯坦,债务束缚是最普遍的支持,因为它是对低种姓群体和/或少数民族悠久的传统。
III 。当童工成为一个世界危机
美国人被提醒存在一个劳工活动家谁透露,凯西李Grifford ,一个日间谈话节目的主机,运动服,做一个洪都拉斯血汗工厂( Berlau , 1997 )在长时间劳动的青少年开始童工。自那时以来,童工问题一直困扰着国会山。事实是,美国已经真正得到消除童工,但已窗帘后面,许多美国跨国公司利用它,尤其是在服装行业,如耐克,锐步, Liz Claiborne的。因此,前总统比尔·克林顿举办了业内人士的广泛协议对美国公司在海外的工厂不雇用儿童。再加上这是一个立法的干扰,能够确保将禁止和制裁的国家的出口产品由儿童放置。
这种立法的一个例子,一个来自爱荷华州的民主党参议员汤姆·哈金。在1992年,他介绍童工威慑法(或简称哈金的法案) ,完全禁止进口商品由劳动者14岁以下(洛佩斯卡尔瓦,2001) 。 ,新泽西州的前共和党众议员克里斯·史密斯说,如果国家被发现利用儿童作为劳动者的,美国将切断其外援的禁令。史密斯等同于把一个9岁​​,在一家血汗工厂,相当于奴隶或非法监禁。史密斯是特别坚决反对中国的工厂。
有许多童工的增长作出贡献的因素。其中最重要的是经济全球化。因为全球化全球消费标记的价格竞争加剧,大家刚开始看任何手段,可以降低他们的成本。童工一直被等同于以较低的成本,因为儿童的工资很低,他们不抱怨,他们很容易同意,工作时间长,没有加班费。事实上,这是非常的原因,一些儿童正在增加,迪斯尼,沃尔玛,飞利浦,范Heusen等(魏斯的男人, 1997年)使产品的缝制工厂在海地,洪都拉斯和危地马拉。无管制和未选中的,是真正的没有停止增长的童工。
但是,经验证据显示,童工的最强大的决定因素仍然是家庭和教育(洛佩斯卡尔瓦,2001)的贫困状况。令人惊讶的是,孩子不影响决定的家长把自己的孩子工作,只在乎他们,因为他们的贫困状态,他们的孩子有这样或那样的工作的工资。此外,它已经发现,其他因素,如文化传统,永久冲击(如离婚) ,甚至有机会不一定让父母决定把自己的孩子工作,以取代他们的学业。这将需要大量从贫穷的压力,导致他们把他们的孩子,劳动和许多第三世界国家,许多经历了确切的那种压力。
在辩论的核心,有两个相互竞争的童工劳动背后的动机:它是关于偏好,或者是约束有关。 “家长喜欢送孩子去工作,如果他们没有面临严重的经济约束?家长会送他们的孩子的工作,如果他们真的有选择的机会吗?“ (洛佩斯卡尔瓦,2001) 。 Basu和凡在1998年发表了他们的研究结果证明,童工的现象直接相关的更多的约束和不喜好。
贫困是童工的主要决定因素,美国和其他发达国家都遇到了一个更令人不安的情况。例如,在一些国家,如厄瓜多尔和香蕉种植园,鼓励童工获得更多的利润,他们根本没有任何其他选择上升摆脱贫困。因此,当来自富裕国家的活动家加入组一起在一个世界贸易组织( WTO )会议,并赢得厄瓜多尔的产品,禁止行为和止赎他们,他们也有效地关闭的最后一个主要选项为最穷的人( 2002年,索维尔)。其结果是,活动家庆祝他们的道义上的胜利,但国家,他们已经封死了工厂现在很多较差。
这里是伟大的童工危机面临困境。发展中国家的反对童工劳动的活动,绝对可以产生意想不到的后果,危害儿童。当孩子失去自己的制衣厂工作,例如,你可以打赌,他们一定会回到学校去。通常情况下,他们找到的收入来源,只是为了让生活更危险。事实上,根据到Berlau (1997) ,童工的法律,如哈金的法案只能工作在更高的生活标准的国家。收集证据后,学者们的概括,它容易让我们美国人来标注童工,不人道和辩论反对它很容易为美国来告诉印度或巴基斯坦停止孩子劳动“立即,有效,或其他” ;但它不容易考虑过其他。
童工问题不是黑与白的辩论。眼下,很多人都意识到,它不喜欢的童工是坏的,应停止,但也有考虑到巨大的后果。当然,这在道德上是正确的,以阻止这些儿童工作,但也有经济因素的生存和改善他们的条件。它可能对其他国家取缔童工和美国必须认识到,这是一个长期的任务。和发达国家也应该认识到童工的法律只能在第三世界国家,只有当它的生活水准已经上升到一定水平,它不再是一个经济上的必要性儿童工作( Berlau ,1997) 。所以,如果你一切都归结在一起,最伟大的社会立法的有利因素仍然是经济增长。
有一些童工的法律限制将货物从国外如地毯标志计划,这是一个国际项目,认证的产品不使用童工的儿童。还有其他的,完全禁止这样的产品,如哈金的条例草案。但是,这个法案成为过时,一旦发现联合国儿童基金会指出,它有危害儿童更多的意想不到的后果。此外,该法案成为有争议的,因为第三世界的非政府组织谴责它作为保护主义的一种形式的不公平惩罚贫穷国家(魏斯的男人, 1997年) 。同时,联合国组织和专业人士没有参加儿童节目的目标。 Kawewe和Dibie (1999)认为,联合国仍然不成功,消除障碍,可能拥有先进的儿童福利。例如,联合国不断失败,去挑战一些有害的基本文化价值观和习俗,如那些反对那些属于低种姓群体在印度传统的歧视行为。此故障导致不采取行动对儿童的剥削。
哈金的法案已被更改,当经济学家参加改革。新版本将采取行动反对童工劳动的情况下,非自愿奴役“ ,或在接触有毒物质或工作条件,否则造成严重危害健康” (魏斯人, 1997年) 。这些变化在该法案只是一个小的步骤做,一共带来了结束全球童工。当然,这是一个危机,是很难解决的问题,并在十年内不大可能解决。简单的经济规律的法律的供给和需求,防止其消灭。只要发达国家需求的产品由童工,甚至在不知不觉中,然后公司会继续做自己在做些什么,卖它,只要它使利润。诚然,立法可以减少童工,但总是有一个很好的机会,雇主偷渡一群孩子在他们的工厂。因此,结束童工的可能(或可能是唯一的)路线是为了阻止我们廉价的外国劳动力的依赖。
VIII 。结论
“消除童工劳动:看看在目前的情况下”(2001) (孟加拉国)独立。检索2008年5月3日,从
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