A child being used as a laborer is something that has been in vogue throughout human history; but child labor in its present form, where children are employed and exploited, had its beginnings during the Industrial Revolution! It was during this phase of human history that businesses turned to child-labor to enhance their production through lesser wages, maintain production through eradication of unionism, and reduce capital by making crowded factories. Although the Great Depression of the 1930s brought about a sea change in the use of child labor; it is something that still continues to exist, in its most horrible form, even today!
According to the International Labor Organization, as of 2013, there was a world population of about 168 million child laborers. In other words, this would mean the number of people living in the UK, Germany, and Australia! And sadly, children are not just being used as assistants for the adult workforce, but entire factories are populated just by them!
Of the above child labor population, around 85 million children are employed in industries that are considered to be “hazardous”. Some instances of such factories include the tobacco industry, fireworks industry, cotton mills, and tanning industries.
Although there has been much uproar against child labor, it continues to exist till date. Some of the major reasons for this are lack of sufficient wages for parents, disturbances caused by trade unions, poverty, and of course the reluctance of industry owners to let go of their under-aged labor force. It is estimated that the benefits that would be procured by doing away with this labor force “would outweigh costs by nearly six to one”.
Some of the major industries in which child labor is highly prevalent are agriculture, manufacturing, mining, construction, and textile production. Of this, 60 percent of the child labor population is employed in agriculture or agriculture-based industries.
Some of the worst forms of exploitation of the child labor force include shackling children within industries to ensure continuous work, kidnapping children and engaging them in adult wars, compelling school-going children to join the workforce through compulsion or luring, attracting or misguiding children into the sex industry and getting them sold to brothels.
Child labor is existent all over the world; however, it is predominant in some regions. When an analysis of the countries that engage extensively in child labor was conducted, the results pointed to ten countries. Excluding four, all the remaining was concentrated in Africa! These include DR Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Zimbabwe, and Burundi. The others were Myanmar, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Pakistan.
In Ethiopia, about 60 percent of the children are engaged as labor force; and among these, a good majority are employed in the mining industry – an industry that is considered hazardous even for adults!
Although such a huge child labor population exists, only one out of five receives their actual wages! Now, you know why the industries don’t want to let go off this labor force.
But again, all hope is not lost! Between 2000 and 2012, the child labor force was reduced by 78 million; in other words, child labor scene has been seeing a steady decline! And in this, child labor among girls saw a decline of 40 percent, while boys registered only a 25 percent decrease.
Every year, June 12 is celebrated as the Day against Child Labor. Let’s hope that this year, June 12 will witness the concerted efforts of industries, business organizations, governments, unions, and our society to eradicate child labor. Because, it would require a lot of collaborative effort to end this evil!