Child Labor: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

The 12th of June is World Against Child Labor Day, so in an effort to help the International Labour Organization with their fight against child labor and increasing exposure on this day, we thought we’d tell you 5 things you didn’t know about child labor.

1. 218 Million Children Aged 5-17 Are Experiencing Child Labor worldwide.

This is a staggeringly high statistic. However, it’s important to note that not all labor that children in this age range undertake is considered child labor. For example, a 16-year-old working as a glass collector in a pub in Britain, or a 16-year-old waitress in America aren’t considered child laborers. They aren’t considered as such because the work they do doesn’t affect their well-being, their personal development and doesn’t interfere with their education, it’s an all-around positive experience, except for the odd angry customer, and prepares them to be productive members of society when they reach adult age.

Child labor, however, is applied to children whose work environment is not enriching to them, but on the contrary, can be physically or mentally dangerous to them and deprives them of their right to education. For these 218 million children, life is dangerous and hard and the pay is very little. There are two extremes at play here, for the safest children experiencing child labor, this could be working on a family farm to support the family rather than going to school and the danger they are exposed to poses a real threat, but they may be regarded as safe by the family. However, for the worst cases, children can be enslaved, removed from their families and taken to unknown places to work in dangerous factory conditions and be housed by their enslavers in unsanitary and cramped conditions where the spread of disease is also rife.

Nevertheless, all child labor is awful and negatively impeaches on the right to a happy childhood, and as we have stated, 218 million is a shockingly high number, it accounts for 1/6th of the children in the world, and needs to stop.

2. There’s Over 2000 Death’s Every Day.

2000 children die a day in sweatshops, and 3 million a year including the adults that these children will grow to be. Sweatshops are characterized as places of extreme exploitation; the workers are paid very little and often work up to a 92-hour week in horrific conditions. Children are often employed in sweatshops because they work for less money and are generally easier to control or exploit. This number disproportionately hits girls, as 85% of children working in sweatshops are girls.

With the harsh conditions, these children work in it’s disturbing and yet not surprising that deaths occur. Some of the deaths aren’t well documented and could be even higher in other sectors such as child agriculture where almost 60% of child laborers work.

3. About 126 Million of Them Work in Hazardous, Violent or Humiliating Conditions.

Some children are forced to work in mines or quarries, for example mining for gold or emeralds in Colombia, or diamonds in the Ivory Coast. Child laborers in these conditions suffer extreme injuries or illnesses due to the heavy machinery, possibility of collapse and respiration problems. Around 60% of the children work in agriculture, fishing, hunting or forestry, for example, banana farming in Ecuador, cotton farming in Egypt or tea picking in Bangladesh. The conditions for these children are also poor, they can become ill from exposure or heat exhaustion in some areas, and can be exposed to dangerous pesticides. For girls and boys sexual violence is an issue, but disproportionately higher for girls. Many young girls, sometimes as young as 5 or 6 are taken to be used in domestic service, they are usually trafficked across borders and left completely vulnerable to their new situation.

4. Asia Has The Most Child Laborers.

Around 50% of all child labor (114 million cases) occurs in Asia, mainly in manufacturing and agricultural industries. Here we have a familiar story for many children in Asia. 9-Year-old Meem was taken out of school to work a 12-hour day in a sweatshop, with half a day off every Friday and no holidays. Meem cuts thread off shirts made for men’s stores in the west, sitting cross-legged as she cuts away for hours on end. The $25 a month she earns is sent straight to her father and in return, she’s allowed to buy a glittery hair clip every month or an ice cream.

5. There are 28 Million Fewer Children in Sweatshops Compared to 4 Years Ago.

This is a very telling figure, in recent years there has been a lot of exposure to sweatshops and subsequently pressure to improve conditions or close them altogether. Many companies are now taking responsibility for accidents that occur in their factories due to poor working conditions, and paying compensation, and others are not, for example of the 6 companies using the factory near Dhaka in Bangladesh that collapse in may last year, only one has offered to pay the families of those killed or injured compensation.

The fight against child labor globally has been a slow one. It was in the early 1990s when the conditions of sweatshops were first exposed, and since then little has changed until recently. The fight has been slow for a few reasons, with business’ economic goals taking preference and public opinion being somewhat divided. There are many people who argue that while the conditions aren’t ideal, it’s still providing those people with a job and helping the local economy. However, these people often make just enough to feed themselves, and sometimes not even that and does very little to bolster the local economy. Furthermore, poor sanitation and increased chance of infection and injury are drains to the local economy.

The pressure to stop child labor around the world continues to grow, and hopefully, we’re looking towards a future where children aren’t abused and exploited. We hope you’ve learned something you didn’t know about child labor and if you want more information or news about upcoming events or things to get involved in, check the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) website.

About Jodie Lauren Smith

Jodie is a 25 year old British woman, who loves journalism and non-fiction writing in general. She wants to be a voice for unreported issues, elevating them in to the public arena in the hopes we can make a difference.

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