Chil Labour: a Major International Issue

Topics: Trade union, Employment, World Bank Pages: 5 (1831 words) Published: December 4, 2005
Child labour usually means work done by children under the age of fifteen, which limits or damages their physical, mental, social or psychological development. Some work does not harm children and may in fact be beneficial for them. Most people agree that when we talk about child labour, we refer to something in tolerable - young children denied school and play working simply to live, in dangerous conditions. Some of the worst child labour abuses involve mostly four and five year olds. About 250 million children work in dangerous and unsafe conditions. The International Labour Organization estimates that at least one-quarter of all children in Africa work and in some countries it is closer to half Getting exact figures is difficult in countries, like China, where government restrictions make it next to impossible to get reliable figures even though child labour is unrestrained. Child labour is more common in rural areas than in urban areas because it is easier to keep it under wraps. Of course, it is also widespread in the free trade zone, where foreign companies go to avoid union and labour laws. Child labour results from a system, which creates poverty on a massive scale. We can not look at child labour just at the level of the individual family - we need to understand the class and cultural politics behind it. Child labour is also part of the economic structure in many countries, just like it used to be in Canada. Entire industries now depend on labour of children and families also depend on their children to work - some pledge their children's work in return for a loan or to pay back a debt. Children rarely earn a living wage; in fact they are hired because they can be paid so little. Parents of child labourers are often unemployed or underemployed and so employers need to hire adults, so that their children do not need to work. Employers use children because kids are cheap to hire and often uneducated. Children are not likely to organize trade unions and they have little power to demand better health and safety, fair wages or decent treatment. All over North America, children are employed in sweatshops, pizza delivery, car washes, agriculture and fast food restaurants. In town after town, city after city, they serve our fast food meals late at night and prepare our coffee in the morning. Sometimes they are scalded, burned, sliced up by food processors, exposed to pesticides in fields or choked by fumes in factories. Some are just working to buy bikes, some to feed their families, some to save for education or some just to feel independent. So if children are just working for these simple purposes, why are they being forced to work in these unimaginable conditions? Child labour is about inequality and that is why some children are forced to work and some are not. Much of what is consumed by us in the northern part of the world is made by workers (including cbi[dren) in southern parts of the world. Nike provides one of the most glaring examples of this inequality. In 1992, they paid Michael Jordan $20 million to advertise their shoes, which was more than the combined annual income of the 30,000 young Indonesians who made them. Within the north and south there are many other inequalities that exist. In the north, it is mainly immigrant children, children from minority groups and poor children who work and in the south, it tends to be children form lower classes, refugee children and immigrant children who work in the most dangerous isolated conditions. Furthermore, boys and girls may work in different industries and be exposed to different dangers. All of these inequalities make solutions to child labour even more complex. In order to protect the class or racial status quo, people argue against education for lower classes, for female children, etc. In these instances child labour is used to maintain equality. Child labour is definitely an issue for trade union movement. Children are employed as regular employees in all...
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