Child Labor and Policy Initiatives to Resolve the Problem

Child Labor and Policy Initiatives to Resolve the Problem

Child labor is one of the contemporary problems in the present-day world. The term refers to the employment of under-aged children in a business or an industry for economic benefits. Such an employment contract is illegal considering that it adversely affects physical and mental development of a child. In this case, the employment of children is against provisions of the International Labor Organization (ILO). However, not all works that children are engaged in can be categorized as child labor that ILO is targeting to eliminate globally. According to ILO, child labor has detrimental effects. Therefore, there is a need to implement immediate resolutions to protect future generations. The problem deprives children their right to education and participation in leisure activities that promote growth and development.

Child labor exposes teenagers to harmful working conditions, potential hazards, and injuries that may adversely affect them for the entire lifetime. As such, global governments ought to adopt effective strategies to eliminate the exploitation of children for economic gains. These approaches are the formulation of stringent laws, creating awareness on the effects of child labor, and, most importantly, economic empowerment of the society. The latter is essential since it enables parents and guardians to engage in income-generating activities of their choice without necessarily involving their children. Arguably, poverty is the primary driver that compels parents and guardians to allow their children to provide their labor services in the industry. As such, the influence of poverty in the spread of child labor in the modern world should not be ignored.

Observation and reflection on the penalties that a US court placed on San Diego Chuck Cheese suggest that child labor is a local problem in the United States. The court, in this case, fined the restaurant $4,000 for contravening labor laws that prohibit employment of under-aged workers (Nguyen, 13). Accordingly, the employer violated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act that require employers to recruit workers of above 18 years exclusively. This aspect led me to reflect on the question: why do financially stable businesses employ children, yet they can hire trained employees? My answer to this question is that organizations employ children considering that they are willing to work for low remuneration.

In my research on the topic, I have gained insights on the scope of child labor as a global problem in the present-day world. I have noted that it covers children that toil as commercial sex workers and under-aged teenagers that are associated with armed forces. The study by Basu, Kaushik, and Zafiris (147), in particular, shows that about 186 million children across the globe are child laborers. The figures related to the ILO survey when the world was celebrating two centuries after the Great Britain Parliament illegalized slavery. The study further shows that out of 186 million children, 1.8 million are commercial sex workers, 0.3 million associated with armed forces, and 5.7 million under forced labor. It is therefore apparent that child labor has a broad scope that goes beyond the exploitation of children in industrial and business activities.

However, I have observed anomaly on the researcher’s perception of child labor. In this regard, a significant proportion of these studies primarily explore forced labor without in-depth study of prostitution and children associated with armed forces. This aspect led me to question: do researchers underestimate the effects of prostitution and armed conflicts among children? In my approach to this question, I noted that forced labor is rampant as compared to the other two forms of child labor. Therefore, the far-reaching consequences of forced labor should have attracted researchers to focus on it rather than commercial sex and war conflicts.

The problem of child labor is not only affecting developing economies in Africa and parts of Asia but also economically-advantaged thrifts of the world. It has emerged as a global problem that needs collaborative efforts from worldwide governments. The study by Gumus, Sevtap, and Gary (1194) indicates that poverty compels children to provide their labor for compensation. The authors further noted that parents allow their children to work in a move to break the cycle of poverty that is affecting their families (Gumus, Sevtap, and Gary 1194). However, the study primarily focused on the Turkish agriculture sector that has a significant proportion of children working as laborers. The researchers concluded that about 81% of children involved in the survey both go to school and offer their labor services when they have free time. In this regard, the findings support my argument that poverty play critical roles that compel children to work for organizations that compensate them for their labor services.

Multiple researchers are in consensus that child labor has devastating and far-reaching effects. The study by Gumus, Sevtap, and Gary (1194), for instance, is in agreement that the contemporary problem interferes with schooling besides the mental, emotional, physical, and moral dangers to teenagers. Roberts (663), on the other hand, examined the economic consequences that underpin child labor. The author noted that economic outcomes lead to unnecessary competition between child laborers and adult workers in different sectors of the economy. In this case, teenage workers are willing to provide their labor services much below the industry standards on compensation. Depressing wages and salaries have adverse effects on the professional employees considering that it lowers morale and career development among adult trained workers. These research findings led me to conclude that child labor do pose not only social problems but also trigger adverse economic and cultural impacts on the society at large.

While the study by Gumus, Sevtap, and Gary is plausible, it has weaknesses that adversely affect the validity and the reliability of the findings. The authors disclosed that the average age of participants involved in the survey was 11-12 years. It led me to question whether a child of 11 years can provide labor services in the Turkish agriculture sector. However, the source contains essential information that points out the magnitude of the problem, especially in the agriculture sector. The researchers support my assertion that the agriculture sector has the highest number of child laborers across the globe.

Basu (97) supports my argument that child labor is prevalent in the agriculture sector. In this case, Basu’s study shows that of all the worldwide child laborers, 70.4% are in the agriculture sector. The survey further indicates that manufacturing businesses account for 8.3%, similarly to retail shops and hospitality that have the same percentage. After a critical analysis of Gumus, Sevtap, and Gary’s source, I had to ask the question: why do agriculture sectors attract a large proportion of child laborers compared to other industries? In this case, my answer to the question is based on the reasoning that agriculture is under informal sectors where authorities cannot adequately control. Also, it is possible to argue that agriculture does not require training, and, therefore, it is ever available to child laborers across the globe.

The provision of affordable and compulsory education for all children is a practical approach to the elimination of child labor. The study by Roberts (663) supports my argument that providing citizens with affordable education play critical roles in addressing child exploitation in the present day world. According to the author, emerging economies such as Brazil, India, and China have employed the technique. Roberts noted that many countries in Latin America and South Asia recorded a dramatic decline in child labor after introducing compulsory and affordable education to its nationals. Myanmar (Burma) is one of the countries with a devastating rate of child labor globally (Roberts 663). Roberts, in this regard, recommends that Myanmar should introduce compulsory free education since it is essential in eliminating the problem. However, political instability is one of the primary reasons for the existence of child labor in Myanmar, two centuries after Great Britain passed laws that illegalized slavery (Roberts 663).

My second approach to eliminating child labor is intergovernmental collaboration in formulating strict laws. The technique is a strategy that will create awareness in different jurisdictions that child labor is illegal. Noguchi (355) noted that a significant proportion of the UN member states had ratified provisions of the International Labor Organization. The Conventions on the Right of a Child (CRC) states that any person under the age of 18 years is deemed an under-aged (Noguchi 355). This aspect implies that all children below the age of 18 years should not work in exchange for compensation (Noguchi 355). Noguchi further asserts that global governments have ratified the provisions of ILO at a faster rate than ever since its implementation in 2002.

After reading Noguchi’s source that primarily focuses on the ratification of ILO, I noted that there is impressive progress in the elimination of child labor. The author noted that of every four ILO member states, at least three had ratified the provisions that prevent child exploitation. The study further suggests that the International Labor Organization has strong membership with the non-member states gradually showing interest to register with ILO. Within one and a half years after the establishment of ILO, more than 132 countries had already subscribed as member states. The figures are promising and suggest that several countries are in consensus that child employment is illegal. Also, child labor violates the United Nations Conventions on the rights of a child to protection from hazardous environments (Noguchi 355).

After a critical reflection on Noguchi’s source and the findings by ILO that 186 million children are laborers, I had to raise a question: why is child labor rampant despite ILO having strong membership? Also, I had to reflect on the query: are the laws in existence effective in eliminating child labor? My answer to this reflection is that there is a varying degree of compliance with ILO standards and labor laws in different jurisdictions. This aspect explains why international media houses have raised concerns on high levels of child labor in independent states. In this case, the media has unearthed that many teenagers are working in cocoa farms in the West African countries and commercial agriculture in Asian countries. As such, it is argued that several labor laws and regulations are in existence, but its implementation is a challenge.

My third approach is economic empowerment. The policy intervention is based on the reasoning that an economically-empowered society is better off to comply with labor laws and regulations. The scholarly article by Basu and Tzannatos (148) explicitly support my claim. The authors reasoned that eradication of poverty by providing economic opportunities to citizens is a viable approach to the problem. The study shows that families that have low levels of income tend to introduce their children to child labor as an approach to increase household earnings. The reasoning is that economically disadvantaged families cannot afford to enroll their children in schools. Basu and Tzannatos argued that “patents from ample backgrounds do not like having their children in schools unless compelled by circumstances” (pp. 148). The study further shows that child laborers are substitutes whenever society lacks economic opportunities. Without education and economic opportunities, guardians have a presumption that their children are useful in specific tasks, and, therefore, have a role in supplementing family incomes.

Economically-advantaged countries and international financial institutions such as the World Bank Group and IMF have a significant role to play in eliminating child labor (Gumus, Sevtap, and Gary, 1196). These institutions should combine their efforts towards economic empowerment in countries that have excessive levels of child labor. The strategy, according to Gumus, Sevtap, and Gary (1196), outweighs the policy intervention on proving residents with affordable education. The study shows that poverty drives children back to child labor after basic compulsory education at a primary and secondary level. The authors noted that the success rates among children from amble backgrounds are low owing to the high level of poverty in their families.

Accordingly, global governments should consider providing their nationals with economic opportunities alongside free primary education to all children. The determination of the success rates among children working in the Turkish agriculture sector was one of the objectives that guided Gumus, Sevtap, and Gary. The resource, therefore, is essential since it supports my policy initiatives on economic empowerment as a technique to eradicate employment of children. For the case of Myanmar, it should focus on political stability besides creating awareness on the detrimental effects of recruiting children for economic reasons. A stable government is necessary since it can implement laws and regulations that are aimed at preventing child labor in its jurisdiction.

The growth of global capitalism has seen multinational corporations use unethical approaches to navigate their businesses. Catsoulis’s article published in “The New York Times” argues that capitalism is promoting the spread of forced labor. According to the author, multinational companies breach labor laws where they recruit teenagers who can provide relatively cheap labor. After reflecting on child exploitation and evidence by Catsoulis,  I reasoned that child laborers adversely shape compensation terms in the labor markets. In other words, employers would be lowering compensation since there is an oversupply of cheap laborers in the market. The objective in this regard is to minimize operating costs in the present-day global market that is characterized by the existence of aggressive competition. The media report has revealed that some companies engage in unethical labor practices in the United States. Also, there are several children exposed to dangers in cocoa plants of Ghana and other parts of West Africa. Their employers expose children to harmful working conditions. Organizations such as Unilever and Nestle, for instance, have questionable human resource practices that promote child labor.

 Dottridge (256) support my reasoning that child labor is a modern form of slavery two centuries after Great Britain abolished the Factory Act. The assertion by the author that it is difficult to differentiate child labor to children at work necessitated me to refer back to the provisions of the International Labor Organization. Doddridge argued that many children are assisting their parents by executing every-day home duties. After applying the ILO standards, I noted that several aspects differentiate child labor and children at work.

Firstly, child labor deprives a teen the right to childhood development. It implies that engaged children spend a substantial proportion of their time in income-generating activities. Secondly, child labor is considered exploitative since it adversely affects the kid emotionally, physically, socially, mentally, and morally. Children at work, on the other hand, are distinguishable since teenagers can assist their parents in good environments that do not adversely impact on their development. Also, such children can still spend a significant proportion of their time schooling, in leisure, and other activities that enhance their development.

While Basu (87) argues that the number of child laborers has significantly declined globally. Dottridge (254) refutes the claim with evidence and counterarguments. According to Dottridge, many children are employed, but global governments do not have precise data since they cannot differentiate what constitutes forced labor. The study further shows that authorities in some jurisdictions are reluctant to investigate what made up child labor since the formal abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century. Dottridge further asserts that many children are still working in the cocoa plantation in West Africa countries such as Ghana. Also, the research shows that there are a significant number of children working in other cash-crop farms such as cotton, coffee, and different sectors of the economy.

Basu, on the other hand, argued that the rate of child labor is declining as the world economy grows. The study further shows that developed countries account for 2.5% of the worldwide number of child laborers (Basu 87). The former Soviet bloc, on the other hand, accounts for 2.4%, and Asia and the Pacific region at 19% (Basu 87). Latin America and the Caribbean stand at 16%, whereas the Middle East and North Africa represent 15%. Sub-Saharan Africa, however, is the leading block with its child labor figures currently representing 29% of the worldwide statistics.

My thesis statement is significant considering that it modifies general thinking on the topic. It links the definition of child labor with the provisions of the International Labor Organization as an approach to distinguish it with children working. The latter refers to the situation where under-aged teenagers support their parents and guardians by performing home duties. As such, my thesis endorses the provisions of ILO that state any work that deprives a teenager his/her childhood is a form of child labor. It is also essential since it recommends not only viable but also realistic approaches that authorities may employ to eradicate child exploitation. The topic is significant since it points out child labor as a global problem. Policy makers may review such initiatives and implement them to safeguard the rights of the child. However, the authorities ought to implement action plans at a local context to address child labor. In this regard, there is a need to create awareness at local settings on the adverse effects of employing children.




Works Cited

Basu, Kaushik, and Zafiris Tzannatos. “The Global Child Labor Problem: What do we know and

What can we do?” The World Bank economic review 17.2 (2003): 147-173.

Basu, Kaushik. “The economics of child labor.” Scientific American 289.4 (2003): 84-91.

Catsoulis, Jeannette. “‘Invisible Hands’ Review: The Children Fueling Global Capitalism.” The New York Times 22 11 2018. Online. 21 2 2019.

Dottridge, Mike. “Contemporary Child Slavery.” Child Slaves in the Modern World (2011): 254-


Gumus, Sevtap Guler, and Gary Wingenbach. “The child labor problem in Turkish agriculture:

What can we do?” Social Indicators Research 127.3 (2016): 1193-1215.

Nguyen, Alexander. “San Diego Chuck E. Cheese’s Fined $4K for Child Labor Violations.” San Diego News 22 June 2018: 13-14. Website. 6 3 2019.

Noguchi, Yoshie. “ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labor and the

Convention on the Rights of the Child.” International Journal of Children’s Rights 10

(2002): 355-369.

Roberts, Jack W. “Comparative Approaches to Myanmar’s Child Labor Epidemic: The Role of    Compulsory Education.” Emory Int’l L. Rev. 30 (2015): 661.