Child labor is one of our society’s oldest challenges and it remains a concern today. The heated debate of whether it’s ethical or not poses questions that merit an in-depth analysis of the situation.
Whether having children laborers is right or wrong is not as black and white as people might think. On the one side, working children often undergo terrible and detrimental working conditions that impair their mental and physical well-being. On the other, work can greatly benefit children’s development, sense of responsibility, growth, and maturity.
Decades ago, the practice of using children as workers often went unnoticed. It was far too common to have children as apprentices. Yet, the emergence of the industrial revolution has shed a powerful light on this issue.
During the industrial revolution, children were often forced to work in terrible working conditions. The industrial revolution redefined thousands of people’s childhoods. From working in unsanitary factories to miserably long hours, being underpaid, and being badly treated.
Because of the industrial revolution, child labor is generally seen as a terrible thing in Western people’s minds. Yet, Western people are often completely unaware of the reality of third-world countries. There are several compelling arguments in favor of child labor. With the right approach, child labor can help eradicate poverty in many countries and improve children’s living conditions.
Throughout this article, we will cover arguments for and against child labor from a neutral standpoint. We will also acknowledge what that means for businesses that hire children.
Overview and Statics Revolving Around of Child Labor
Millions of families throughout the world are struggling financially.
At the start of 2020, around 160 million children were engaged in child labor according to World Vision. The COVID-19 pandemic’s economic disturbance has placed 9 million more children to work. Researchers estimate that one out of every ten children on the globe is a working child. Half of these children are undergoing dangerous labor that puts their health and moral growth at risk.
Children are forced to labor for different circumstances. Having child laborers is most common when families experience financial difficulties. That could include poverty, a caregiver’s abrupt sickness, or the loss of a significant pay earner’s employment.
Children that spend their childhood working in dreadful working conditions are often victims of severe physical and emotional damage. In extreme cases, which often happen in developing countries, children may be trafficked to work. Trafficked children are frequently subjected to assault, abuse, and other human rights violations. The International Labour Organization estimates that 22,000 kids die every year at work.
In almost every case, child labor also restricts children their access to education and health care. Children that are deprived of their childhood education most likely end up living in poverty throughout their lifetime.
Arguments Against Child Labor
With over 168 million working children throughout the world, the problem is appalling. Child laborers are frequently denied a fundamental human right: the right to education. They are often forced to perform tasks in dangerous working conditions, excessive hours, and lack of mandatory leave.
Here are just some of the many consequences of depriving children of their childhood by making them join the workforce too early.
The National Institute of Health states that children laborers often suffer from the following adverse health outcomes:
- Behavioral disorders
- Poor mental and physical growth
- Infectious diseases
Depending on the type of labor they are subject to, children can have different physical consequences. Working children are consistently found to have a significant prevalence of malnutrition and stunted development. Longer working hours are also associated with poor physical health. The risk of being sexually assaulted also increases when their working hours increase.
Child work is linked to a higher frequency of mental and behavioral problems. Work exposes children to abuse, whether verbally, physically, or sexually, leading to psychological and behavioral issues.
Older peers and coworkers can also influence children’s behavior, such as smoking or the use of drugs. The effects of drugs and smoking at such a young age can have a terrible long-term negative impact on children.
Work has a significant negative impact on children’s schooling. Working children’s schooling rates are roughly half that of non-working children in various nations.
The level of education people receives often dictates their future income and quality of life. Because child laborers are often deprived of schooling, they become way more likely to continue within their cycle of poverty.
Education is a vital aspect of people’s childhood. The way children are raised, educated, and the relationships they form during their childhood is a vital aspect of their development.
Arguments Favoring Child labor
Politicians and policymakers are often fixated on the idea that child labor is bad. Yet, they neglect to recognize that not all work is bad. Work can benefit children in a variety of ways. There is a ton of research that proves that work benefits children’s overall development.
Whether work is beneficial or not to children’s development is not a simple ‘yes or no’ answer. It’s not so black and white. As Open Democracy states, work often enables children to have a better understanding of what it means to be socially responsible.
Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of child labor is that it’s not a question of whether having working children is good or bad. But instead about two main factors: the work itself and the flexibility around it.
The work itself. If working conditions are appropriate, safe, and the monetary compensation is good, then work can contribute greatly towards children’s development. People often have the preconceived notion that it’s wrong to have working children. Yet, there’s so much that they forget to consider.
The flexibility around the work. If the work they do enables them to easily attend school and explore their creative capacities, work can have great benefits to children. Working during their school vacations, for instance, can empower children’s education.
Work can enable children to have an early idea of what career path they might choose. Working from a young age can empower children to find their passions or avoid choosing careers that they don’t feel excited about.
It’s not often the case that children laborers work in safe conditions and have flexibility around their schedules. Yet, it would be naive to ban child labor altogether. The better option would be to improve upon it.
Cultural beliefs have a significant influence on how people see child labor. People in underdeveloped nations often believe that employment helps youngsters develop their character and enhance their skill development.
In some families, it is normal for children to follow in their parents’ footsteps and enter the workforce from an early age. Especially in those poor families that struggle financially.
Here are some of the reasons why people are often encouraging kids to enter the workforce.
The most apparent benefit of labor is financial. Everyone understands the need to have sufficient income to pay the bills. The issue becomes even more apparent in families where children’s employment is required for survival. Poverty is one of the main reasons why children drop out of school to enter the workforce.
Children take joy in what they accomplish when they effectively participate in the labor activities around them. Most of us have witnessed how employment can boost a child’s self-esteem, particularly in youngsters otherwise marginalized. Those who consider employment a natural part of life regard losing this chance to grow as a significant concern.
Work can have educational value to children. Today, education involves schooling as a critical component. Yet, education also goes far beyond schooling.
A well-rounded education is one where children’s emotional intelligence, social skills, and physical capacities are also developed. Work, rather than being in direct competition with education, may contribute to education in its broadest meaning.
Work and School Cooperation
A children’s education becomes more complete when it combines both hard and soft skills. While hard skills are often developed at school, soft skills are often enhanced at work.
Work should not necessarily require children to leave school. Work and school can easily blend into people’s childhood. Working during school vacations, weekends, or after hours can empower children to learn time management and other life skills at an early age.
What Does Child Labor Mean for Businesses?
During the industrial revolution, children were strongly sought after in factories. Their cheap salary, unlikeliness to strike, and obedience made factory owners often take advantage of them.
Rather than abusing them, businesses can enhance children’s proper development. The following are just some of the ways in which businesses can become part of the solution rather than the problem when it comes to child labor.
Proper Working Conditions. Businesses can ensure that the children they hire have empowering and safe working conditions. That way, work can benefit both children and the business.
By respecting their schooling hours, compensating them right, and enabling them to explore their creative instincts, businesses can become allies in children’s formation. It would also enable children to contribute to their family’s financial well-being.
Provide Education Opportunities. Businesses can create specific programs for their children laborers. These programs can contribute to children’s education by enabling them to learn about different career paths. They may easily influence children’s college and career decisions.
Challenges Around Child Labor
Employing children may benefit both children and the company. Yet, the following challenges often make it difficult for businesses to hire working children.
- Businesses with working children may find it challenging to market their products in the Western world because their ideals do not align with Western customers.
- If any harm is caused to a child laborer, the organization will be held responsible for it.
There’s a lot to unveil when it comes to child labor. In some ways, work can benefit children greatly – financially, educationally, and career-wise. In others, it can detriment their schooling and negatively impact their physical and emotional well-being.
What’s certain is the fact that work should never impede children from their right to education, respect, and health. Instead, it should enhance these rights by empowering their creative capacities.
What are your thoughts regarding child labor? Let us know in the comments below!