Child labor is the employment of minors that denies them their childhood, impedes their ability to acquire education, and that is socially, physically, morally, and mentally detrimental and injurious. Many international bodies view the practice of child labor as abusive. Legislation across the world proscribes this practice. Historically, child labor was used in varying degrees throughout Europe, the United States, and in most colonies of European powers where children aged between five and fourteen years provided labor. These children mostly worked in mining, home-based factories, agriculture, and other production factories. Some even worked during the night shift that lasted twelve hours . However, with the advent of formal education, the augmentation of household income, and the enactment of child labor laws, the prevalence of child labor dramatically plummeted. Before the enactment of child labor laws, minors served as valuable sources of labor and were often overworked and underpaid.The Industrial Revolution saw the employment of young children in factories that had hazardous and often critical working conditions. Because of this understanding of the perils of child labor, many developed nations currently consider it a retrogressive practice that is in direct contravention of human rights and has been proscribed. However, some poor countries still tolerate or permit the practice. Another definition of child labor can be the full-time employment of minors below the legally prescribed minimum age limit . During the Victorian era, mines and factories were prominent for employing minors as chimney sweeps. This form of labor played a significant purpose from the onset of the industrial revolution, and they resulted from economic difficulties. During the early 1990s, glass-making industries employed many young boys. Glass making was a particularly treacherous and tasking job that required extreme heat to melt the glass. Exposure to this heat by the young boys caused heat exhaustion, lung problems, eye troubles, burns, and cuts. Because the workers received their wages according to the pieces they produced, they worked for longer hours without leave. In addition, because there was the necessity to maintain the flame in the furnaces, night shifts were also incorporated into the work schedule. Most factory proprietors favored boys under the age of sixteen years.
Mines and factories were not the only places that practiced child labor during the twentieth century. Home-based manufacturing in Europe and across the United States employed minors, as well. Reformers and governments were of the opinion that factory labor had to be regulated and that each country had an obligation to give welfare to the poor . The laws that followed moved work from factories to urban dwellings. Families, especially women, preferred this arrangement since it permitted them to earn some income while simultaneously undertaking household duties. This meant that home-based manufacturing processes operated throughout the year. Families voluntarily arranged for their children to work in such income generating enterprises.
Child labor is still pervasive in many region of the world, even though the statistical estimates differ. Excluding the light intermittent work, the 2008 International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates suggested that 153 million child laborers existed globally aged between five and fourteen years. This represented a drop of about twenty million child laborers from the 2004 ILO estimates. Some sixty percent of the child laborers engaged in agriculture while fifteen percent were involved in manufacturing and assembly in factories, informal economy, mines, home-based enterprises, and operating machinery. A further twenty-five percent were engaged in the service sector such as hawking, polishing shoes, picking and recycling trash, domestic helps, retail, and the loading and transfer of goods. Contrary to widespread beliefs, parents employ many of the child laborers and not the formal economy or manufacturing. Children engaged in in-kind or work for pay schemes often reside in rural areas, with very cases in urban centers.
The ILO has cited ravaging poverty as the principal cause of child labor. For impecunious households, the income resulting from the work of children, although small, constitutes a significant portion of the household income. According to the ILO, the dearth of meaningful alternative options, such as accessible and affordable quality education, is also a key factor that causes children to engage in the caustic practice of child labor . The minors work due to lack of something better to occupy them. Many communities, more so in the rural settings where there is an extremely high prevalence of the practice, do not have sufficient schooling and educational infrastructure. Even when such facilities are available, they are often far away, hard to access, too expensive or of poor quality that the parents fail to see the significance and merit of education. Certain cultural practices have also justified the practice, thus encouraging it. Some cultures view working as appropriate in skill development and character building among children. In other cultures, predominantly the ones in which small household businesses and informal economy flourish, a cultural tradition is practiced where the children have to follow in the example of their parents. In such cases, child labor becomes a way of practicing and learning the trade from a young age. Microeconomic causes of demand and supply may also inform the pervasiveness of child labor in some areas . While poverty and the lack of proper educational facilities may inform the supply, the proliferation of low paying jobs in the informal economy, and not the lucrative formal economy jobs, drives the demand side .
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