The menace of child labour in developing countries
Though child labour is on the decrease in developed nations, the scourge is taking an alarming progression in the developing countries. This is a heinous crime against the child.
One of the menace facing developing nations in recent times is the scourge of child labour. Every developed nation had its own bite of the mischief at one time or the other in the process of their growth. Child labour is not only practiced in the developing countries but also in the developed countries at a very low rate. In Britain, it took concerted efforts of great men and women to regulate the issues of child labour. In the early context, Child abuse was a terminology used for the practice of employing young children in factories but now expanded to include the employment of minors generally, especially in work that may interfere with their education or endanger their health. Some children are also forced into prostitution by their guidance or mistresses to make money for themselves.
From the ancient times, children have always helped their parents’ in house chores and farming. This implies that the more children in a family, the more manpower to produce foodstuffs from the farm; so the larger the family, the wealthier. Child labour was a blessing to the family until the industrial revolution when children were exploited in the factories. Starting in the late 18th Century in Britain, owners of cotton mills used minor orphans and children of the poor through out the nation as factory workers and only fed them and took care of them in return. These minors worked for 12 to 16 ours a day; deprived of good medical attention, education and a bright future. In 1802 Britain's Parliament enacted the first law limiting child labor, barring cotton mills from hiring children age 8 or under and by 1878, more regulations were introduced by British legislation advocating for a regulated employment and better conditions for the minors.
In the 19th century minors between the ages of 7 and 12 years made up one-third of the workforce in United States factories. Several laws and counter laws were enacted by different states in the United States to protect these exploited minors but were always challenged by the courts on its legality. The first effective step to regulate child labour in the United States was in Massachusetts in 1836 and in 1842, a 10-hour-a-day maximum for children's work in textile mills was approved. Before the mid 20th Century, the United States has achieved a remarkable feat in the regulation of child labour.
Facts about child labour
The worst cases of child labour are still obtainable in the present day in many developing countries. According to estimates made by the International Labor Organization ILO, there are more than 250 million working children worldwide under the age of 15. Over half the working children are in Asia, while in Africa 1 in 3 children work, and in Latin America, 1 in every 5. In 1979, the International year of the child, a study revealed that more than 50million children bellow the age of 15 years were employed in various hazardous jobs mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Most of these children eventually turns out to be the bread winners of their families and thus are encouraged by their parents to continue in the job.
In Africa, children between the ages of 5 to 12 in the rural areas are being rented to families in the urban areas by their parents or guidance for annual payments. These children, mostly girls are used as baby sitters, houseboys and maids or hawkers for their mistresses. At the end of the year, a meager amount will be paid to the impoverished parents or guidance according to agreement. Also in the rural areas, parents and guidance use their young children to carry out manual cultivation of farmlands while in the urban areas; children are encouraged by their parents or guidance to serve as conductors to public buses.
In India, though child labour is illegal, significant numbers of children are employed in the agricultural, carpet weaving and match manufacturing, including other hazardous establishments where minors are not supposed to work. The practice of bonded labour is also prevalent and children are meant to work to offset their parents’ loans. It’s estimated that about 15million children are working as bonded labourers in India. Just like Nigerian parents, Indians also give their children out to work as servants in private homes.
Why the crime thrives
In spite of the incessant campaigns against child labour by both local and international groups, the scourge still persists into this age of civilization because of some factors. The first factor is poverty: the poverty level in most countries is so high that most parents can not run their family without supports from their children. A study of nine Latin American countries found that without the income of working children aged 13 to 17, the poverty rate would climb by 10 to 20 percent. So, poverty blocks the conscience and fare reasoning of people. The second factor is greed by unscrupulous employers who wants to maximize profit by employing minors who will put in more effort to increase productivity and receive very meager wages. It has been discovered that employers who make use of minors are richer than their counterparts who adhere to child labour regulations. The third factor is tradition – in some areas, there are some people who are meant to be slaves. It becomes hereditary that a child from that kind of lineage continues to be enslaved by the affluent from their tender ages. Fourthly, inadequacy of educational institutions and facilities in the developing countries forces some of the children to choose to work in factories to support the family.
Effects of child labour
A nation that encourages child labour will end up producing illiterates because the children will not be opportune to receive formal education. It produces elderly lay-abouts and social miscreants who were exploited when they were children. Child labour has some health side effects. Many of the children are affected by the chemicals in the factories where they work and those working on agricultural farms are occasionally bitten by snakes. It has also been confirmed by experts on child development that when children sit crouched on their toes for 14 hours a day in front of a carpet loom, they are often left deformed and unnaturally short and the minors forced into prostitution are at the risk of contacting STDs and the dreaded HIV.
Efforts has been made by many organizations to sensitize the people with the dangers of child labour but the lot of the job still lies on the individuals involved in this gruesome business. The International Labour Organization ILO, founded in 1919 has introduced several child labour conventions to enlighten the populace about the dangers of child labour. Every government must do all at its disposal to discourage child labour and encourage a compulsory education for the minor. The UNICEF once described the role of poverty in child labour in these terms, “Poverty begets child labour begets lack of education begets poverty.”