AN OVERVIEW OF CHILD LABOR AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

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AN OVERVIEW OF CHILD LABOR AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

“A little girl about seven years old, who’s job as scavenger, was to collect incessantly from the factory floor, the flying fragments of cotton that might impede the work... while the hissing machinery passed over her, and when this is skillfully done, and the head, body, and the outstretched limbs carefully glued to the floor, the steady moving, but threatening mass, may pass and repass over the dizzy head and trembling body without touching it.” To many of us this paragraph belongs to the past. It is true, this was published in 1864 in England, but for even more people it would come as a surprise that the practice of child labor exists as we speak. According to Krugman several thousand men, women and children live on Smokey Mountain dump in Manila, enduring the stench, the flies and the toxic waste in order to make a living combing the garbage for scrap metal and other recyclables. And the Smokey Mountain is very much present time story. Child labor is a persistent problem throughout the world, especially in developing countries. According to the latest statistics , Africa and Asia together account for over 90 percent of total child employment. Child labor is especially prevalent in rural areas where the capacity to enforce minimum age requirements for schooling and work is lacking.

What exactly is child labor? The International Labor Organization’s convention #138 specified 15 years as the age above which a person may participate in economic activity. Also, another source (Ashagrie, ’93) suggest that a child is a laborer if it is economically active, while governments and international organization usually consider a person economically active if the person works on a regular basis. Clearly there are few different angles to look into this.

At this point we can look at the child labor as the reserve army of labor but at the same time we need to take into consideration poverty and economic weakness that are pushing children into work. The line of morality in regards to this issue is very thin; are those children better off not working and instead starve being dump scavengers or are they better off working for less than a minimum wage? In addition, the economies of third world nations often benefit from the introduction of low-wage manufacturing jobs. Their argument is that these “sweatshop” jobs can offer their country’s poor a release from malnourishment and poverty.

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