Child Labor and the Second Industrial Revolution

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Child Labor and The Second Industrial Revolution

Children were not seen as non-productive consumers, they were not members of a unique and special period in life, but simply adults in smaller bodies. People perceived childhood as the period when these small adults must not only be provided for but must also be able to contribute, while biding time until they could become productive and useful members of society. As the economy changed, the factory system opened up opportunities for these miniature adults making them become more productive sooner. This attitude greatly contributed to the rise of the child labor system. However, there were other issues that supported the system as well; among these were lack of humanity in dealing with children, the drive for economic gain using laissez faire methods, and a desire by the local parishes to reduce the large numbers of poor people for whom they were responsible for supporting.

Children were not seen as non-productive consumers, they were not members of a unique and special period in life, but simply adults in smaller bodies. People perceived childhood as the period when these small adults must not only be provided for but must also be able to contribute, while biding time until they could become productive and useful members of society. As the economy changed, the factory system opened up opportunities for these miniature adults making them become more productive sooner. This attitude greatly contributed to the rise of the child labor system. However, there were other issues that supported the system as well; among these were lack of humanity in dealing with children, the drive for economic gain using laissez faire methods, and a desire by the local parishes to reduce the large numbers of poor people for whom they were responsible for supporting.

During the second industrial revolution there was such a widespread use of children in the mines and factories. The factories’ managers only efforts were to produce as much as possible at as little cost as possible which not only allowed the child labor system to develop, but to expand to such proportions as to become the backbone of mass production. There was a lack of regulation of child labor and it was a direct result of “laissez faire” a French phrase meaning “let things alone.” Another problem was poor people. The poor laws had made local government responsible for their homeless and unemployed. In order for the parishes to reduce the number of people they had to support they looked for ways to introduce workers to the factories, particularly orphan or “pauper” children. The parishes refused to provide relief to adults with children who could be sent into the factories. Parents whose families were hungry lost their ability to protect them from child labor and the only way to keep them from starving was to send them to work as indentured children. The affect the investigations of child labor had on the industry showed that the evidence to inform policies was only directed at reducing the incidence and severity of child labor; it required an understanding of behavior, of markets and institutions and of the local political economy. Given the potential complexity of the problem, it was imperative to have a theoretical model proving that the children whether an apprentice child or a free labor child, had long working and monotonous hours which led to accidents as the children became sleepy, bored, or careless. Many children in the factories and mines lost their lives when they were mangled by machinery and mine explosions. In spite of the hazards of using children, the employers found them very useful and cheap. The labor reforms that came out of the investigations were to regulate and eventually end the heinous use of child labor by manufacturers and mines, but it took a long time and came about in stages. While legislation to help apprentice children was first passed in 1802, The Health and...
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