Ask any individual to paint a vivid picture of what one’s lifetime must resemble, and immediately, three stages will emerge into the conversation: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Ask them to paint a clearer one, and the images created turn into innumerable possibilities based on each individual’s different definition of purpose. Imagine an infant within the arms of her mother. Surrounded by the comforting embrace, both physical and emotional, an entire life is in the hands of the person who sees a bright future for the little baby she holds. The little kid then grows up in a household filled with the love and support that every child should be open to in a complete family, a safe space for play, and a nurturing environment to learn. However, this painting of a little child is a luxury, a privilege that is beyond reach for others. Beside such a painting is the nightmare reality of how our capitalistic world has ruined lives at such an early stage in life. Instead of a classroom filled with a splendid atmosphere, many young lives are now set in toxic factories where authoritative power enforces immoral practices upon innocent children. It is devastating; however, it is reality[e][f].
The issue of child labor has resulted in the loss of dignity, potential, and development among the youth (Hansan, 2011). Such issues occur in response to high poverty and unemployment rates. Families below the poverty line often resort to these practices in order to improve their chances of obtaining basic necessities. Another cause as to why such a problem still perpetuates society is the lack of access to compulsory education. With over 258 million children without the means to acquire proper schooling, these juveniles resort to working with the lack of anything better to do (Adonteng-Kissi, 2018).
The exploitation of child labor has dated back to the 18th century with over 60% of children[g][h] globally being forced into unethical conditions (Ortiz-Opina and Roser, 2016). Moreover, a large portion of these victims have not received the education that was expected from the children. Over time, this number has significantly decreased as child labor laws have been implemented. Despite such initiatives, over 152 million children are still exploited (Ortiz-Opina and Roser, 2016). Child labor continues to pervade the economy, yielding immoral treatment and toxic environments for children. To combat this, we must create accessible educational opportunities, strengthen employment laws, and promote social accountability.
Beyond the already given fact that children are forced to work, the grave effects brought by by child labor goes as far as slavery, seperation from families, and absence of guidance in all aspects. As a person’s childhood is one of the most crucial stages of development, the victims of child labor are not able to access the benefits that they are entitled to have (Hansen, 2011). They are deprived from basic human rights because of such an inhumane practice. It closes them off to the opportunities they need in order to reach the bare minimum of living comfortably and safely.
As strenuous slavery perpetuates the vulnerable sector of the youth, one may not be able to access basic necessities such as clean food, water, and shelter (Reid, 2020). Such children are abused in their “jobs” so that capitalistic businessmen may prolong the exploitation of their victims’ capabilities. The workforce in such scenarios is never prioritized, never considered, even. These children become malnourished, frail, and sickly because they are not meant to be in such toxic and dangerous environments (Hansen, 2011); no human is. The welfare of these children is ignored without understanding their needs, as minors and as people.
As horrid as these characterizations of child labor are, the worst cases of child labor stretches out to human trafficking, prostitution, drug production, and many more. Such practices have stood the test of time which has resulted in mentally and physically detrimental repercussions (Reid, 2020). The prevalence of such leads many to call for immediate action and the complete elimination of such operations.
In response to the established lack of access to compulsory education as one of the causes of child labor, we must create more accessible educational opportunities that pave a clearer path of development for children (Doyle, 2019). Child labor has significantly decreased globally by 38% since the year 2000 because education was prioritized in several countries such as South Africa, Bangladesh, and Egypt (Ortiz-Opina and Roser, 2016). The negative correlation between schooling and child labor was extensively highlighted as children's productivity was now directed towards a safer and stable environment.
The foundation of battling child labor relies on our collective social accountability over our awareness and action towards the complete eradication of child labor. In the era of fast fashion and mass production of products, it is the responsibility of consumers to be wary of the consequences of their actions. Around 66% of child laborers[i][j][k][l] engage in manufacturing products in factories globally (Ortiz-Opina and Roser, 2016). Providing active support by boycotting or calling out corporations for their wrongdoings will advocate against unethical business practices.
As both international and local governments have brought their attention to the implications of child labor, numerous legislations have been enabled in order to bring such issues into a national view. It is not merely ignored or tolerated anymore, for the heads of state recognize child labor as one of the most alarming dilemmas faced by the world today. With these age-conscious and employee treatment laws at hand, it is the duty of the state to collectively eradicate child labor, and such efforts have been evident in the statistics of child labor decreasing (Rakestraw, 2019).
Despite the worldwide focus on the global pandemic, our responsibility to remain vigilant over the unacceptable systems and social structures should continue to reign on par with the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis. Across the divisions of society, these child laborers are deemed one of the most vulnerable sectors considering their burden of providing financial aid to the family. Regardless of the gravity of their struggles, such issues are not to be silenced due to diverted focus. At the end of the day, the victims of child labor are the same people who break protocol just to earn. The silence on our part does not equate to the assumed eradication. They are hidden, not erased.
Each individual has once been a child; therefore, it is within society’s vision to collectively paint an ideal image of childhood for all children. An ideal image of recreation, family, and education must be a reality for all. Children deserve rights that will open them to the same opportunities in the professional world. No more tears must be shed; no more dreams must be crushed. Such solutions are within the hands of the people, so it is within the responsibility of citizens to make these dreams a reality.
- Adonteng-Kissi, O. (2018). Causes of child labour: Perceptions of rural and urban parents in Ghana. Child and Youth Services Review, 91, 55–65. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.05.034
- Doyle, A. (2019, October 26). What Are the Most Current Child Labor Laws and Regulations? The Balance Careers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/child-labor-laws-and-regulations-2060478.
- Hansan, J. (2011). The American era of child labor. Social Welfare History Project. http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/programs/child-welfarechild-labor/child-labor/
- Ortiz-Ospina, E., & Roser, M. (2016, February 9). Child Labor. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/child-labor.
- Rakestraw, M. (2020, September 30). 10 Tips for Helping End Child Labor. Institute for Humane Education. https://humaneeducation.org/10-tips-for-helping-end-child-labor/.
- Reid, K. (2020, May 1). Child labor: Facts, FAQs, and how to help end it. World Vision. https://www.worldvision.org/child-protection-news-stories/child-labor-facts.