The first general laws against child labour, the Factory Acts, were passed in Britain in the first half of the 19th century. Children younger than nine were not allowed to work and the work day of youth under the age of 18 was limited to twelve hours. Child labour refers to the employment of children at regular and sustained labour. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organizations and is illegal in many countries.
Child labour was utilized to varying extents through most of history, but entered public dispute with the advent of universal schooling, with changes in working conditions during the industrial revolution, and with the emergence of the concepts of workers’ and children’s rights. In many developed countries, it is considered inappropriate or exploitative if a child below a certain age works (excluding household chores, in a family shop, or school-related work). An employer is usually not permitted to hire a child below a certain minimum age. This minimum age depends on the country and the type of work involved. States ratifying the Minimum Age Convention adopted by the International Labor Organization in 1973, have adopted minimum ages varying from 14 to 16.
Child labor laws in the United States set the minimum age to work in an establishment without restrictions and without parents’ consent at age 16. The incidence of child labour in the world decreased from 25 to 10 percent between 1960 and 2003, according to the World Bank. Contents[hide] * 1 Historical * 2 Present day * 3 Recent child labour incidents * 3.1 Meatpacking * 3.2 Firestone * 3.3 GAP * 3.4 H&M * 3.5 India * 3.6 Primark * 4 Defence of child labour * 5 See also * 6 Notes * 7 References * 8 Further reading * 9 External links * 9.1 Child labour in diamond industry| Historical
Child labourer, New Jersey, 1910During the Industrial Revolution, children as young as four were employed in production factories with dangerous, and often fatal, working conditions. Based on this understanding of the use of children as labourers, it is now considered by wealthy countries to be a human rights violation, and is outlawed, while some poorer countries may allow or tolerate child labour.
Child labour can also be defined as the full-time employment of children who are under a minimum legal age. The Victorian era became notorious for employing young children in factories and mines and as chimney sweeps. Child labour played an important role in the Industrial Revolution from its outset, often brought about by economic hardship, Charles Dickens for example worked at the age of 12 in a blacking factory, with his family in debtor’s prison.
The children of the poor were expected to help towards the family budget, often working long hours in dangerous jobs for low pay, earning 10-20% of an adult male’s wage. In England and Scotland in 1788, two-thirds of the workers in 143 water-powered cotton mills were described as children. In 19th-century Great Britain, one-third of poor families were without a breadwinner, as a result of death or abandonment, obliging many children to work from a young age.
Two girls protesting child labour (by calling it child slavery) in the 1909 New York City Labor Day parade. In coal mines, children would crawl through tunnels too narrow and low for adults. Children also worked as errand boys, crossing sweepers, shoe blacks, or selling matches, flowers and other cheap goods. Some children undertook work as apprentices to respectable trades, such as building or as domestic servants (there were over 120,000 domestic servants in London in the mid-18th century).
Working hours were long: builders worked 64 hours a week in summer and 52 in winter, while domestic servants worked 80 hour weeks. Children as young as three were put to work. A high number of children also worked as prostitutes. Many children (and adults) worked 16 hour days.
As early as 1802 and 1819 Factory Acts were passed to regulate the working hours of workhouse children in factories and cotton mills to 12 hours per day. These acts were largely ineffective and after radical agitation, by for example the “Short Time Committees” in 1831, a Royal Commission recommended in 1833 that children aged 11–18 should work a maximum of 12 hours per day, children aged 9–11 a maximum of eight hours, and children under the age of nine were no longer permitted to work.
This act however only applied to the textile industry, and further agitation led to another act in 1847 limiting both adults and children to 10 hour working days. By 1900, there were 1.7 million child labourers reported in American industry under the age of fifteen. The number of children under the age of 15 who worked in industrial jobs for wages climbed to 2 million in 1910. Present day
A young boy recycling garbage in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 2006 See also: Children’s rights Child labour is still common in some parts of the world, it can be factory work, mining, prostitution, quarrying, agriculture, helping in the parents’ business, having one’s own small business (for example selling food), or doing odd jobs. Some children work as guides for tourists, sometimes combined with bringing in business for shops and restaurants (where they may also work as waiters). Other children are forced to do tedious and repetitive jobs such as: assembling boxes, polishing shoes, stocking a store’s products, or cleaning.
However, rather than in factories and sweatshops, most child labour occurs in the informal sector, “selling many things on the streets, at work in agriculture or hidden away in houses—far from the reach of official labour inspectors and from media scrutiny.” And all the work that they did was done in all types of weather; and was also done for minimal pay. As long as there is family poverty there will be child labour. According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 158 million children aged 5 to 14 in child labour worldwide, excluding child domestic labour.
The United Nations and the International Labor Organization consider child labour exploitative, with the UN stipulating, in article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that: …States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. Although globally there is an estimated 250 million children working. In the 1990s every country in the world except for Somalia and the United States became a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or CRC. Somalia eventually signed the convention in 2002; the delay of the signing was believed to been due to Somalia not having a government.
A boy repairing a tire in GambiaIn a recent paper, Basu and Van (1998) argue that the primary cause of child labour is parental poverty. That being so, they caution against the use of a legislative ban against child labour, and argue that should be used only when there is reason to believe that a ban on child labour will cause adult wages to rise and so compensate adequately the households of the poor children. Child labour is still widely used today in many countries, including India and Bangladesh. CACL estimated that there are between 70 and 80 million child labourers in India. Child labour accounts for 22% of the workforce in Asia, 32% in Africa, 17% in Latin America, 1% in US, Canada, Europe and other wealthy nations. The proportion of child labourers varies a lot among countries and even regions inside those countries. Recent child labour incidents
Young girl working on a loom in Aït Benhaddou, Morocco in May 2008. MeatpackingIn early August 2008, Iowa Labor Commissioner David Neil announced that his department had found that Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking company in Postville which had recently been raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, had employed 57 minors, some as young as 14, in violation of state law prohibiting anyone under 18 from working in a meatpacking plant.
Neil announced that he was turning the case over to the state Attorney General for prosecution, claiming that his department’s inquiry had discovered “egregious violations of virtually every aspect of Iowa’s child labor laws.” Agriprocessors claimed that it was at a loss to understand the allegations. Agriprocessors’ CEO went to trial on these charges in state court on May 4, 2010. After a five-week trial he was found not guilty of all 57 charges of child labour violations by the Black Hawk County District Court jury in Waterloo, Iowa, on June 7, 2010. Firestone
The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company operate a metal plantation in Liberia which is the focus of a global campaign called Stop Firestone. Workers on the plantation are expected to fulfil a high production quota or their wages will be halved, so many workers brought children to work. The International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Firestone (The International Labor Fund vs. The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company) in November 2005 on behalf of current child labourers and their parents who had also been child labourers on the plantation. On June 26, 2007, the judge in this lawsuit in Indianapolis, Indiana, denied Firestone’s motion to dismiss the case and allowed the lawsuit to proceed on child labour claims. GAP
After the news of child labourers working in embroidery industry was uncovered in the Sunday Observer on 28 October 2007, BBA activists swung into action. The GAP Inc. in a statement accepted that the child labourers were working in production of GAP Kids blouses and has already made a statement to pull the products from the shelf.
 In spite of the documentation of the child labourers working in the high-street fashion and admission by all concerned parties, only the SDM (Sub-divisional Magistrate) could not recognise these children as working under conditions of slavery and bondage. Distraught and desperate that these collusions by the custodians of justice, founder of BBA Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson of Global March Against Child Labour appealed to the Honorable Chief Justice of Delhi High Court through a letter at 11.00 pm.
This order by the Honorable Chief Justice comes when the government is taking an extremely reactionary stance on the issue of child labour in sweatshops in India and threatening ‘retaliatory measures’ against child rights organisations. In a parallel development, Global March Against Child labour and BBA are in dialogue with the GAP Inc. and other stakeholders to work out a positive strategy to prevent the entry of child labour in to sweatshops and device a mechanism of monitoring and remedial action. GAP Inc. Senior Vice President, Dan Henkle in a statement said: “We have been making steady progress, and the children are now under the care of the local government.
As our policy requires, the vendor with which our order was originally placed will be required to provide the children with access to schooling and job training, pay them an ongoing wage and guarantee them jobs as soon as they reach the legal working age. We will now work with the local government and with Global March to ensure that our vendor fulfils these obligations.” On October 28, Joe Eastman, president of Gap North America, responded, “We strictly prohibit the use of child labor. This is non-negotiable for us – and we are deeply concerned and upset by this allegation.
As we’ve demonstrated in the past, Gap has a history of addressing challenges like this head-on, and our approach to this situation will be no exception. In 2006, Gap Inc. ceased business with 23 factories due to code violations. We have 90 people located around the world whose job is to ensure compliance with our Code of Vendor Conduct. As soon as we were alerted to this situation, we stopped the work order and prevented the product from being sold in stores. While violations of our strict prohibition on child labor in factories that produce product for the company are extremely rare, we have called an urgent meeting with our suppliers in the region to reinforce our policies.” H&M
In December 2009, campaigners in the UK called on two leading high street retailers to stop selling clothes made with cotton which may have been picked by children. Anti-Slavery International and the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) accused H&M and Zara of using cotton suppliers in Bangladesh. It is also suspected that many of their raw materials originates from Uzbekistan, where children aged 10 are forced to work in the fields.
The activists were calling to ban the use of Uzbek cotton and implement a “track and trace” systems to guarantee an ethical responsible source of the material. H&M said it “does not accept” child labour and “seeks to avoid” using Uzbek cotton, but admitted it did “not have any reliable methods” to ensure Uzbek cotton did not end up in any of its products. Inditex, the owner of Zara, said its code of conduct banned child labour. India
In 1997, research indicated that the number of child labourers in the silk-weaving industry in the district of Kanchipuram in India exceeded 40,000. This included children who were bonded labourers to loom owners. Rural Institute for Development Education undertook many activities to improve the situation of child labourers. Working collaboratively, RIDE brought down the number of child labourers to less than 4,000 by 2007. On November 21, 2005, an Indian NGO activist Junned Khan, with the help of the Labour Department and NGO Pratham mounted the country’s biggest ever raid for child labour rescue in the Eastern part of New Delhi, the capital of India.
The process resulted in rescue of 480 children from over 100 illegal embroidery factories operating in the crowded slum area of Seelampur. For next few weeks, government, media http://www.tehelka.com/story_main39.asp?filename=cr050708laterdayslave.asp and NGOs were in a frenzy over the exuberant numbers of young boys, as young as 5–6 year olds, released from bondage.
This rescue operation opened the eyes of the world to the menace of child labour operating right under the nose of the largest democracy in the whole world. Next few years Junned Khan did extensive campaigning on the issue of children involved in hazardous labour, advocating with the central and state governments for formulation of guidelines for rescue and rehabilitation of children affected by child labour. In 2005, after the rescue, Junned Khan, collaborated with BBA to file petition in the Delhi High Court for formulation of guidelines for rescue and rehabilitation of child labour. In the following years, Delhi’s NGOs, came together with the Delhi Government and formulated an Action Plan for Rescue and Rehabilitation of child labour. Primark
BBC recently reported on Primark using child labour in the manufacture of clothing. In particular a £4.00 hand embroidered shirt was the starting point of a documentary produced by BBC’s Panorama (TV series) programme. The programme asks consumers to ask themselves, “Why am I only paying £4 for a hand embroidered top? This item looks handmade. Who made it for such little cost?”, in addition to exposing the violent side of the child labour industry in countries where child exploitation is prevalent. As a result of the programme, Primark took action and sacked the relevant companies, and reviewed their supplier procedures. Child labour is also often used in the production of cocoa powder, used to make chocolate. See Economics of cocoa. Defence of child labour
Child workers on a farm in Maine, October 1940Concerns have often been raised over the buying public’s moral complicity in purchasing products assembled or otherwise manufactured in developing countries with child labour. However, others have raised concerns that boycotting products manufactured through child labour may force these children to turn to more dangerous or strenuous professions, such as prostitution or agriculture. For example, a UNICEF study found that after the Child Labor Deterrence Act was introduced in the US, an estimated 50,000 children were dismissed from their garment industry jobs in Bangladesh, leaving many to resort to jobs such as “stone-crushing, street hustling, and prostitution”, jobs that are “more hazardous and exploitative than garment production”.
The study suggests that boycotts are “blunt instruments with long-term consequences, that can actually harm rather than help the children involved.” According to Milton Friedman, before the Industrial Revolution virtually all children worked in agriculture. During the Industrial Revolution many of these children moved from farm work to factory work.
Over time, as real wages rose, parents became able to afford to send their children to school instead of work and as a result child labour declined, both before and after legislation. Austrian school economist Murray Rothbard said that British and American children of the pre- and post-Industrial Revolution lived and suffered in infinitely worse conditions where jobs were not available for them and went “voluntarily and gladly” to work in factories.
British historian and socialist E. P. Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class draws a qualitative distinction between child domestic work and participation in the wider (waged) labour market. Further, the usefulness of the experience of the industrial revolution in making predictions about current trends has been disputed. Social historian Hugh Cunningham, author of Children and Childhood in Western Society Since 1500, notes that: “Fifty years ago it might have been assumed that, just as child labour had declined in the developed world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so it would also, in a trickle-down fashion, in the rest of the world.
Its failure to do that, and its re-emergence in the developed world, raise questions about its role in any economy, whether national or global.” According to Thomas DeGregori, an economics professor at the University of Houston, in an article published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank operating in Washington D.C., “it is clear that technological and economic change are vital ingredients in getting children out of the workplace and into schools.
Then they can grow to become productive adults and live longer, healthier lives. However, in poor countries like Bangladesh, working children are essential for survival in many families, as they were in our own heritage until the late 19th century. So, while the struggle to end child labour is necessary, getting there often requires taking different routes—and, sadly, there are many political obstacles.