Benefits of ending child labor

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Florence Kelly, a factory inspector of the late 19th century, described the plight of the “Cash Child” at a conference in Geneva, New York. As described in a newspaper clipping, “She called attention to the fact that in our absorption in our efforts to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, we are oblivious to the presence of the cash child, whose young life is a sacrifice to our indifference.” Adolescence is the beginning of many positive changes for individuals, and allowing children more time to develop would lead to far greater benefits than those provided by underpaid child labor. While the use of children for labor has long been a feature of agrarian societies, where adding another child to the family also added another worker to family farm, industrialization of the 19th century had the effect of eliminating the need for farm workers in many menial tasks, while making jobs in more urban environments more lucrative. This centralization of low-skill employment opportunities coupled with rapid immigration of foreign workers at a time when increased demands required an increase in productivity while attempting to maximize profits by hiring more easily controlled children led to a perfect storm of opportunities for the employment, and subsequent exploitation, of child laborers. While these children were able to provide some income to their families in a fashion similar to their agriculturally based forbears, it also created a rapidly growing lower class by ensuring that those children who survived the dangers of industrial employment remained uneducated beyond the narrow scope of their profession. These problems set the stage for Progressive Era reforms against child labor.
From 1916 to 1941, national efforts to reduce and ...

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