When using goods, the majority of people don’t consider where they came from or who produced them.
Many are unaware that some of these products are actually made by children, who have been overworked, underpaid, and kept out of school. This is an issue known as child labour, and is defined as the full-time employment of children who are under a minimum legal age, especially when illegal and or considered inhumane (“What is Child Labour”). Child labour is currently a severe problem around the globe, as it is widespread, workplace conditions are terrible, and it is extremely damaging to the development of children, and people everywhere should be taking action against this issue. Child labour is not an issue that can be pinpointed to a specific location; it is happening all around the globe, even in the most developed countries. Of the estimated 215 child labourers worldwide, 114 million (53%) are in Asia and the Pacific, 65 million (30%) are in sub-Saharan Africa, and 14 million (7%) are in Latin America (“Child Labour Public Education Project”).
Child labour is most prominent in Ethiopia, Pakistan, Burundi, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, North Korea, and Myanmar, but is also found in countries such as the United States and Cuba (McKenna). Even in countries where the child labour itself is not as much of an issue, the products of the child labour can be found and bought, perpetuating the problem further. Large companies such as Hershey’s, Marlboro, Victoria’s Secret, Microsoft, and Apple all make use of child labour, even if indirectly (“15 Products that use Child Labor”).
Clearly, child labour is a very widespread problem, both directly and indirectly. Not only is child labour severe because it is so widespread, but also because of the terrible conditions these children work in and their effects on the children. Children are forced into working in sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, mining and quarrying, domestic service, hotels, restaurants, retail, illicit activities, and armed conflict (“Child Labour Public Education Project”). Many of these jobs require the children to work in extreme temperatures and poor sanitation, putting them at risk for illness. Also, quite a few of the jobs involve dangers such as handling explosives, which increases the likelihood of child injury and death.
The physical aspects of these jobs, especially repetitive motions, can cause deformation or disability in the children, affecting them for the rest of their lives. In addition, the children are often abused physically, sexually, and psychologically, which can scar them for life. Lastly, child labour takes the children away from their education, limiting their opportunities in the future and keeping them in the cycle of poverty for the rest of their lives. The conditions and effects of the labour have serious and lasting impacts on the children, making child labour an extremely severe problem (“Child Labour”). However, not all work done by children is considered child labour. Sometimes, the child’s participation in work does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their education; this kind of work is regarded as a positive aspect of the child’s development (“What is Child Labour”).
For example, many teenagers begin looking for employment around the age of 16, when they are still technically children. This work is considered legitimate employment, and is not contributing to the issue of child labour. This kind of work done by children does not need to be taken care of, unlike child labour. There are many different ways to take action and help stop child labour, and truly be a global citizen. First and foremost, keeping educated on the issue is crucial; nothing can be done about the issue if it is not truly understood. Also, child labour is caused by various things, such as poverty, barriers to education, culture and tradition, market demand, income shocks on households, and inadequate legislation for protecting children; reducing any of these factors would also reduce child labour (“Child Labour”).
In addition, bringing the issue to the attention of the right people is critical. This can be achieved by writing a letter to the appropriate person, creating a petition, holding a vigil or mock trial, organizing a fundraiser or an assembly for protest, and joining an NGO or community group. Above all, working together is very important, as a single voice can be drowned out among others but working in a group creates a stronger potential for change. There is much that can be done to combat this serious issue, if enough effort is applied. Clearly, the fact that child labour is a worldwide problem and that it leaves long-lasting damage makes the issue very severe and in need of remedying. With the help of many people banding together, it is possible to improve the situation surrounding child labour and reduce this global issue.