CHILD LABOUR: A PERSPECTIVE
A RESEARCH PAPER BY
MEGHNA PRADHAN and ROCHITA CHOWDHURY
(Symbiosis School of Economics)
The current world population stands at over 7 million, out of which around 26.3% is below the age of 15. According to International Labour Organization, more than 215 million children of this age group have been employed in various economic activities. Child Labour across the world ranges from petty domestic helps to workers in Hazardous industries and even prostitution. Its occurrence is widespread; however Asia and Africa have the highest incidence of Child labour (both in absolute and relative terms). The purpose of this paper is simple: to define what exactly child labour is, understand its prominence and underline what circumstances dictate its rise, both presently and in the past.
INTRODUCTION TO CHILD LABOUR
The problem of Child labour is a global phenomenon and its dimension is region specific. It is a challenge not just of underdeveloped and developing countries, but developed as well. We may define child Labour as Full time employment of children who are below a minimum legal age limit. To be more precise, child labour refers to the employment of children in regular and sustained labour. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organizations and is illegal in many countries.
Today, throughout the world, over 215 million children work, and a large proportion of this number as full-time workers. They do not go to school and have little or no time to play. Many do not receive proper nutrition or care. More than half of the aforementioned number are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, some of them being slavery, work in hazardous environments, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution and involvement in armed conflict.
We do not have proper statistics for child labour, since a lot of children work as domestic helps worldwide. For such activities, we cannot have an exact data, due to the thin line between ‘domestic work’ and ‘running errands’. Besides, people tend to withhold the information about their children working.
Around 115 million children under the legal age (assumed to be 18 years) are involved in what can easily be deemed as ‘hazardous work’, which threaten their safety and health. These activities include handling chemicals, carrying heavy loads, mining, quarrying and enduring long hours. The remaining 100 million child labourers are aged under 15 years( the International minimum age for legal employment), and are involved in work that, while not hazardous, are more substantial than the ‘permitted light work’.
HISTORY OF CHILD LABOUR: THE LITTLE WORKERS OF INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND AHEAD ACROSS THE WORLD
Child labour, in essence, had always been present. However, the sudden increase in employment of children occurred during Industrial revolution. Children as young as eight years old used to be involved in long stretches of heavy labour work, ranging from 14 to 16 hours, with only an hour or so given for food breaks. Mistakes or late arrival used to yield punishments too severe for the children, so much so that they used to work for the fear of the same.
The Victorian era saw a massive hike in employment of children in factories and mines. The immigration of large number of people to larger, rapidly developing cities in search of jobs was not an uncommon feature. However, a lot of people lost their jobs as well, or were living in particularly dingy environment. Thus, the children of the poor were expected to give a hand for raising family budget, and had to put in the long hours of work. In 19th Century Great Britain, one-third of the poor families did not have a bread winner (due to death, accident or abandonment), obliging many children to work from a young age. Children were forced to work in coal mines which were too narrow for adults to access, or in other works that required the...
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