Child Labour

International conventions define children as aged 18 and under. Individual governments may define "child" according to different ages or other criteria.

"Child" and "childhood" are also defined differently by different cultures. A "child" is not necessarily delineated by a fixed age. Social scientists point out that children’s abilities and maturities vary so much that defining a child’s maturity by calendar age can be misleading
"Child labor" is, generally speaking, work for children that harms them or exploits them in some way (physically, mentally, morally, or by blocking access to education).

61% in Asia, 32% in Africa, and 7% in Latin America, 1% in US, Canada, Europe and other wealthy nations In Asia, 22% of the workforce is children. In Latin America, 17% of the workforce is children. The proportion of child laborers varies a lot among countries and even regions inside those countries. See Child Labour: Targeting the Intolerable, Geneva, 1998, p. 7; and other ILO publications. "In Africa, one child in three is at work, and in Latin America, one child in five works. In both these continents, only a tiny proportion of child workers are involved in the formal sector and the vast majority of work is for their families, in homes, in the fields or on the streets." -- Unicef’s 1997 State of the World’s Children Report

Poverty is widely considered the top reason why children work at inappropriate jobs for their ages. But there are other reasons as well -- not necessarily in this order: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. family expectations and traditions abuse of the child lack of good schools and day care lack of other services, such as health care public opinion that downplays the risk of early work for children uncaring attitudes of employers limited choices for women

"The parents of child labourers are often unemployed or underemployed, desperate for secure employment and income. Yet it is their children - more powerless and paid less - who are offered the jobs. In other words, says UNICEF, children are employed because they are easier to exploit," according to the "Roots of Child Labor" in Unicef’s 1997 State of the World’s Children Report. The report also says that international economic trends also have increased child labor in poor countries. "During the 1980s, in many developing countries, government indebtedness, unwise internal economic policies and recession resulted in economic crisis. Structural adjustment programmes in many countries accentuated cuts in social spending that have hit the poor disproportionately. " Although structural adjustment programs are being revised to spare education from deep cuts, the report says, some countries make such cuts anyway because of their own, local priorities. In many countries public education has deteriorated so much, the report declared, that education itself has become part of the problem — because children work to avoid going to school. This conclusion is supported by the work of many social scientists, according to Jo Boyden, Birgitta Ling, and William Myers, who conducted a literature search for their 1998 book, What Works for Working Children (Stockholm: Radda Barnen, Unicef, 1998).

Children do some types of low-status work, the report adds, because children come from minority groups or populations that have long suffered discrimination. " In northern Europe, for example, child labourers are likely to be African or Turkish; in Argentina, many are Bolivian or Paraguayan; in Thailand, many are from Myanmar. An increasingly consumer-oriented culture, spurring the desire and expectation for consumer goods, can also lead children into work and away from school."

Working conditions
More than half of the working children aged 15 to 17 (50.3%) performed all tobaccorelated activities during the crop season while the majority of children aged 6 to 14 (74.6%) only occasionally performed some tobacco-related tasks. There was little discrepancy (10%) between the responses of children and those of adults regarding the children’s participation in tobacco-related work on family farms, and the type of activities and tasks done. Eight tobacco-related activities in which children were engaged were identified. The most common activities carried out by the majority of the working children were picking, curing and marketing of tobacco leaves. The assessment of the working environment and conditions revealed that there were various hazards and risks faced by working children. The hazards and risks emanated from the nature of the tasks performed, ranging from simple cuts inflicted by the tools they use to exposure to extreme climatic conditions and to chemicals. Most of the children aged 6 to 14 working on small-scale tobacco farms were not wage earners as they were considered family aids. However, 40.4% of smallholder tobacco growers gave a wage to working children aged 15 to 17, and to only 18.2% of children aged 6 to 14. The main reasons given by parents for putting their children to work were: “to help/increase the work force” (39%) and “to learn” (23%)

Child labour does more than deprive children of their education and mental and physical development - their childhood is stolen. Immature and inexperienced child labourers may be completely unaware of the short and long term risks involved in their work. Working long hours, child labourers are often denied a basic school education, normal social interaction, personal development and emotional support from their family. Beside these problems, children face many physical dangers - and death - from forced labour: Long-term health problems, such as respiratory disease, asbestosis and a variety of cancers, are common in countries where children are forced to work with dangerous chemicals HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are rife among the one million children forced into prostitution every year; pregnancy, drug addiction and mental illness are also common among child prostitutes Exhaustion and malnutrition are a result of underdeveloped children performing heavy manual labour, working long hours in unbearable conditions and not earning enough to feed themselves adequately

Not necessarily in this order: 1. Increased family incomes 2. Education — that helps children learn skills that will help them earn a living 3. Social services — that help children and families survive crises, such as disease, or loss of home and shelter 4. Family control of fertility — so that families are not burdened by children

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