In today’s civilized society where more efforts and emphasis have been laid on protecting the liberties and freedoms of all, it is disheartening that children are some of most abused individuals even in developed countries. It is estimated that over 200 million children are laborers globally, spending millions of hours annually in illegal servitude and slavery. From slavery to indentured servitude, these children mostly work in hazardous environments including factories, drug trafficking and prostitution. It is estimated that over a half of these children, 60% (120 million), of these children work in dangerous environments. These children, some of which are as young as 9 years and below, are denied basic rights including education, food, decent shelter and quality health services (World Counts n.pag). Moreover, forced labor especially prostitution, pornography and military service have prolonged physical and psychosocial negative effects. Even when released from slavery and forced labor, these children find it difficult to integrate into the general society either due to stigmatization or emotional and social instability and detachment. Therefore, it is imperative that intentional steps are taken to stem this while also instituting laws and policies aimed rehabilitating survivors of child labor and ensure that they successfully reintegrate into the larger society.
Child labor is an old age phenomena that has been given different definitions across the scholarly community. Some scholars define child labor as all forms of work that are non-educational and non-leisure (Grootaert and Kanbur 2). Other scholars define child labor in the context of full-time employment for economic activity (Grootaert and Kanbur 2). A key element in defining child labor should encompass the exploitative nature of the work being done (Grootaert and Kanbur 2). The international Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that more children aged between 5-14 years have become full-time workers and around 79 million children fall into this category (Basu and Pham 412).
The reaction from different quarters around different nations has always been geared towards banning child labor or dissociating countries from products that come from companies that deal with child labor. Different numerous economic factors are present when dealing with issues that deal with child labor (Moehling 99). Formulation and passing of laws to curb the vice is not the appropriate method to be used by different players in the market. It is important that other important economic factors are first analyzed before an appropriate form of actions is taken to curb the vice in society (Grootaert and Kanbur 2). By issuing a ban on child labor, the act or behavior would not stop. However, by understanding the dynamics of how child labor affects economics and other factors, then this would be a better approach. As much as child labor is perceived to be a negative practice or omen its ban cannot be enforced since it provides for needs of families that are socially disadvantaged in developing countries.
Child labor has been on numerous occasions linked with child abuse. Scholars who argue on this point, claim that entrepreneurs are seeking for cheap labor while parents seek for income from their children and thus are depicted as being a much selfish individual (Basu and Pham 412). In reality, this is never the case since children who come from poor families or those that are economically disadvantaged seek an opportunity to assist their parents in meeting some of the important economic goals. Parents who in one way or another are unable to cater for needs of their families rely on children to assist them in making ends meet (Basu and Pham 412). It never implies that parents are happy seeing their children working in fields (Basu and Pham 412). In a study conducted in England and presented before parliament, it was noted that more parents were unhappy about their children position but could do nothing to change the situation. The social system in which they lived through did not provide them with an option (Basu and Pham 412). Thus, it can be said that sending children to the fields to work is a sign of desperation among parents and is mainly caused by the low wages and high rates of unemployment (Basu and Pham 413). Thus, claiming that child labor is practiced because of parents’ selfish needs in the society is not justified. Additionally, most children present in the child labor market come from poor families that are unable to meet their demands in the society. Children whose parents come from the high class do not engage in any form of child labor because their parents are able to meet their demands (Basu and Pham 412). Therefore, it would be correct to presume that once the economic status of the economically disadvantaged families improves, then cases of child labor in such families will also come to an end. Supposing all children pulled out of the market, there will be different effects. The first one would be a shortage of labor which in one way or another will result in an increase in wages for all adults, and the problem would soon come to an end (Basu and Pham 413). In other words, the market equilibrium is faced with low wages and therefore child labor is used a method of survival to these families that receive fewer wages as compared to the rest.
If child labor is abolished in all countries and all factors are currently held to be more constant, then there is a higher risk that more families will live in absolute poverty. This is the reality in developing nations where jobs are necessarily never easy to come by. Parents of these children are forced to meet their children needs. However, when children work, some of these needs are able to be met. Different researchers and practitioners agree that child labor significantly improves the chances of survival of different families (Usha and Radha 850). In Bolivia, child labor contributes to about 21% of the total income in poor families (Grootaert and Harry 67). Similar values are noted in various places in India. Child labor in some countries such as India provides the huge base for most labor in a country that does not pay adequate wages (Usha and Radha 850). Some of the companies would not be able to sustain the high wages if child labor was completely banned. The pie chart below shows how child population plays a role in determining the economy of such a country.
Chart 1. Pie chart showing child labor involvement in different sectors in India as at 2012. From the above pie chart it can be noted that children play a key role in providing labor to some of the major industries in the economy of certain countries. Agriculture is the leading economic activity in India and when 59% of children are engaged directly or indirectly to the main economic activity different repercussions would occur if child labor was banned. Other important sectors of the economy that has greatly benefited from this large numbers is the industrial sector. The other sectors do not play an important role in the economy.
The major argument that has been in place, is that, child labor would in one way or another assist the increasing the number of children who go to school and receive education in the process assisting their parents in meeting the needs of society (Baland and James 679). Such a move spells doom for some economies such as India’s that has inequalities between the different classes (Baland and James 679). Imagine a situation in which the Pareto model applies whereby rich families send their children to school while poor families send their children to school. A ban would effectively affect the distribution of resources in the economy because if the children of the poor become more educated, then there is a risk that there will be more competition in the market and the risk of depressing wages will be high (Baland and James 679). In such a scenario, the winner is neither the child from low or rich families. It would also mean that there is a probability that the initial problem in the society would not have been solved as more losers will be generated in the market.
The second major counter argument has established no link to exist between schooling and human capital accumulation thus throwing the notion that is if child labor was to be banned then children will get more educated. In principle, all children who have been withdrawn from the labor circle are supposed to go back to school (Baland and James 679). It is then expected that the education they receive will make them more productive. It is also expected that they will earn more money or have higher wages and that they will break the vicious cycle of poverty witnessed in their families (Bachman 552). In reality, this has been achieved in the developed countries with Britain providing a very good example of what exactly happened after industrial revolution (Bachman 550). Unfortunately, the reality in developing nations is quite different from developed nations. First and foremost, this model relies on the thought that reduction of child labor would directly translate to higher schooling, something that is not automatic.
For this to happen, all schools have to be accessible, affordable and available to all poor communities, something that is less likely to occur or happen (Psacharopoulos 380). For this model to take shape, opening times and holiday periods for such schools have to be in tandem with the needs of this society. Additionally, such models assume that schooling is directly co-related to human capital accumulation something that is not the case (Baland and James 679). It also assumes that schools will be a healthy and safe place for all children. The reality of the matter is quite different in developing nations. Classrooms are too few, and children sit in wrong positions (Psacharopoulos 385). Additionally, human rights bodies have indicated that there are incidences of child abuse by the teachers forcing most parents to take their girl children out of school (Buchmann 1350). This provides a motive for going back to child labor. There is evidence that some individuals who attend school are able to work, and therefore ban of any form of child labor would not have an effect since children would still go to school and come and work once more (Buchmann 1350). However, balancing between the two activities is what normally causes poor results noted in schools. Children who are balancing between the two acts are less likely to perform better compared to students who solely are in school (Patrinos and Psacharopoulos 52)
Child labor has increased the families’ fertility levels as more parents want to have more children so as they can easily support their income needs (Baland and James 678). This is also another major result of not receiving adequate education among such parents. However, a successful reduction in the amount of child labor practice would not directly translate into having fewer children since some other important factors will also come into play (Basu 1119). Some of these factors will include culture and traditions. However, as long as children are able to increase the needs or income of the family, most families will opt to have more. The cost of having children becomes lower if they are not working full time.
In conclusion, most scholars would argue that child labor is a vice that needs to be dealt with so that children are freed from shackles preventing them from having a good education as well as enjoying their life from an early age. The reality of child labor might have been true in the developed countries where the ban could have been more effective since more structures are in place. In developing nations across the world, the case has always been different. Child labor is majorly common in poor families and has been used to sustain families for long periods. The banning of child labor is ineffective since it will mean that some families will completely lack daily needs. The alternative to child banning which is education does also not guarantee any positive impact if the ban on child labor is imposed.
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