19 Mar 2022


International Child Labour Concerns

Format: Chicago

Academic level: University

Paper type: Research Paper

Words: 2500

Pages: 10

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Children are always perceived as the greatest assets the human species have. Childhood is a significant and fundamental part of life span development because it defines the future of any society. Different children have various types of backgrounds that they are brought up in, and this helps in the formation of their personalities. Children who grow up in environments that are suitable to their cognitive, physical, and emotional development tend to be responsible and productive members of the community. 1 On the other hand, children exposed to harsh environmental conditions while growing up mostly end up with low-self-esteem issues and majority will be timid to explore their potentials in future. Several countries associate their futures to the status of their children. When they start doing work at a younger age, children limit their potential and their future job opportunities by undermining their productive competence. When faced with tremendous economic difficulties, the children opt to earn a living; thereby, abandoning their studies in the process of working they are exploited with more work and low salaries. The majority of parents living below the poverty lines tend to send their children to take up on jobs that are hazardous to them. Also, children who have no parents or caretakers to look after them usually take up on jobs at an early age. Their employers contribute to the issue of child labor that has become very common in many countries. Such situations lead to the cycle of child labor.

What is child labor?

According to the United Nations Conventions on Children the Rights, a child is defined as anyone below the eighteen years 2 . Child labor on the other side is referred to as over-working a child or work which denies children their right to childhood. One of the most disheartening features of child labor is the fact that children miss education. A strong negative relationship exists between the effects of child labor and school attendance rates. Children who work tend to miss school or even drop out eventually. It limits the right of children to enjoy the advantages of education. Thus, child labor undermines children’s education as well as immensely influencing negatively on their health and safety. 

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Causes of child labor

Several factors lead to the onset of child labor. First, there is the disappointment in the education systems in many countries. Lack or shortage of enough school in countries, especially developing had discouraged many children to learn. Additionally, high school fees charged discourage many household living below the poverty lines. However, some nation may have free education but with poor quality. This forces parents to motivate children to take up on jobs for survival. 

Secondly, there is the existence of informal economy. One will always find out that large work-places lack children worker. However, places with informal and unregistered businesses are notorious for high children employment. Rarely do social workers and trade union officials visit such places thereby encouraging the growth of child labor. 

Thirdly, the low costs of child labor have attracted many employers since their demands are less than those of the adults are. Since children are still developing and learning new things about their environment, many employers easily, exploit them. 

Child labor thrives in places that lack trade unions or where incompetent trade unions exist. Their absence enables the employers to keep on recruiting children thereby encouraging the spread of child labor. The fifth cause of child labor includes social customs and attitudes. In certain countries, specific groups of elites and dominant groups believe that children from poor backgrounds should be employed. Ending child labor does not even exist in their objectives. Instead, they see an opportunity for growth because of the cheap labor the children incur. In some cases where parents are only able to educate one child, girls are often left out because of the attitudes of the parents towards the girl child education. 

Finally, child labor can be caused by the lack of competency in the social protection services. Most children opt to take up to work because they lack people who can provide and protect them. Children in this category may involve those who are orphaned or recruited into the army.

Types of child labor

Child labor happens in some ways. Whereas other forms can be easily observed, others always become hidden from the public view. The first form of child labor consists of domestic work. It is the most common type and sometimes perceived as unacceptable. It may take place within the family of outside the family. The latter forces children especially girls to be exposed to longer working hours thereby missing out on school and becoming involuntarily socially withdrawn.

Secondly, there is the agricultural work where children are exposed to agricultural activities such as working on the farms. They dig, weed, harvest, and prepare equipment amongst other activities. The third category includes working in industries. In the modern world, many industries have cropped up creating the demand for industrial workers. Child workers in the industrial setting can either be permanent or casual employees. Some of the activities the children always engage in include gemstone polishing, carpet weaving, making garments and glassware, packing chemicals amongst other activities. Some of the work mentioned exposing children to dangerous chemicals such as lead, hearing problems, skin irritations, fire explosion, cuts, burns, and even death. 

The fourth category of child labor involves working in quarry and mines. Many countries with small-scale mining activities have the tendency of employing children. The can work for several hours and without proper protection. Child miners always suffer from a some complications such as physical exhaustion, fatigue, and muscular and skeletal system disorders. 

The fifth type includes slavery and forced labor. It is most popular in rural places. Also, it is majorly associated with the oppression of ethnic minorities. In some cases, children are forced to become soldiers and work in the army. 

The sixth category includes prostitution and child trafficking which is an awful act of children labor. Children in this type of set up face the risks of social corruption to the acquisition of sexually transmitted diseases that can lead to death. The last form of child labor includes working in an informal economy. The activities covered in this setting involve begging, shoe cleaning, collecting garbage, and newspaper selling amongst others. Most times, these activities take place on the streets but can also be domestic. 

Some facts about child labor 

The International Labor Organization (ILO) published a report published in 2006, which indicated that around two hundred and eighteen million children below the age of fifteen years are working globally. The dangerous category of work that usually makes the bulk of extreme forms of child labor was estimated to be around one hundred and twenty-six million in 2004. 

Consequently, it is estimated that more than 69% of children in developing countries engage in compulsory agricultural activities as compared to nine percent in the industry 3

When it comes to regions with highest numbers in child labor, The Asian-Pacific leads with a one hundred and twenty-two million child laborers. The Sub-Saharan Africa follows with forty-nine million, and the Latin American and the Caribbean by five million. The Sub-Saharan Africa leads records the highest number of children working for economic purposes 4 . 

However, there was a positive result published by ILO indicating a decrease in the trend of child labor. The Latin America and the Caribbean registered the greatest decline in child work. 

The report also showed the estimated costs of eliminating child labor and the benefits it had to the future. In a span of twenty-years, a total of seven hundred and sixty billion dollars would be used to eliminate child labor. However, the estimated benefits for education and health are over four trillion. Critical analysis of these estimates indicates an offset of economic benefits by almost six to one. In the end, there will be massive social benefits that will be achieved. 

What makes child labor a trade union issue?

The primary work of trade unions is to ensure that employers duly follow the rights of workers, labor standards, and legislation at all levels. Most unions are founded on the principles of solidarity and social justice. Moreover, most workers’ unions have one core objective of promoting human rights as well as defending their rights. Child labor is widely known to violate all these beliefs.

Most children employers view them as a source of cheap assets with abundant profits. The children are a representation of cheap labor and since they contribute to the decrease in wages. As a result, child labor compromises the work of trade unions by weakening their potential to negotiate and improve the welfare of the workers. Moreover, child labor increases the chances of the unemployment of adults and the youths because of the easy exploitation by the employers. Children who are exposed to harsh environmental conditions become vulnerable and desperate to get a source of income. Therefore, they may easily take up to these jobs because of naivety and uncertainties of the future. 

Case study: Child labor policy in India

Many individuals have often argued that the issue of child labor is for governments to eradicate. Child labor is a concern with many facets that not only requires the governments to eliminate, but also the participation of parents, society and trade unions. For instance, a commissioner in a labor department in western India once made a controversial statement. He quoted,” …we don’t view it as dangerous, children who work in the carpet industry enjoy good health because they work in a conducive environment…it is necessary that they are not stopped from performing this task…their agile fingers make them suitable fir carpet weaving, and it is also good for them to learn as child apprentices. 5 Such a statement depicts the significance of trade unions and having effective trade policies in play. 

Child labor is a critical issue that has been ignored for quite some time in many countries. However, many countries have been able to work extra hard to ensure the rates of child labor declines. Looking at India a case study, it has massively registered reduction in the levels of child employment for the past four decades. According to evidence given by the National Sample Survey, India’s child workforce was approximated to be over nine million in 2004-2005 as compared to twenty-one million in 1983. During this period, the numbers of children employed had drastically fallen by over twelve million 6 . India had embraced different strategies and initiatives to help in the fight against child labor. Its policies majorly originated from the government which ensured the rights of children are clearly stated in the constitution. 

For instance, the article 21A of the Indian constitution states that all children have the right to be educated. It is the responsibility of the state to provide education to children aged between 6 and 14 years. Additionally, Article 24 prohibits the recruitment of children in the factories and any hazardous environment 7 . 

The initial protective legislation for India’s child labor was in 1881 that was for the Indian factories. They were prohibited from employing children under the age of seven years, for those who have attained the age of working they should not work more than nine hours a day and giving out four-vacation s in a month as well as rest days. The then British government had embarked on this policy to limit the production of Indian companies through some legal bans.

The successes of Indian Child labor policies have been massively impacted by the outcomes and endorsements approved by the International Labor Organization. Besides the legislation from the government, other enactments have been put in place to protect children in various occupations 8 .

Another strategy that has been adopted by the Indians involves the National Child Labor policy. In 1987, the constitutions and the legislative provisions protecting children against employment were defined in the National Child Labor Policy. It addressed and the semantics of child labor in a more rounded way and consists of three sections. The first one is the legislative action plan. Secondly, it dwells on the overall development programs that are favorable to the families of children. Lastly, the projects are focused more on issues of child labor 9 . 

Moreover, in 1988, the Indian government adopted the policy aimed at rehabilitating children that had undergone the trauma of child labor in twelve most affected districts. The project was referred to as the National Child Labor Project (NCLP). The scheme’s coverage increased rapidly to operate in over two hundred and fifty districts. In the initiative, children are taken away from the harsh working conditions. After that they are taken through special, educational, health, and vocational programs amongst other constructive activities. The NCPL is considered a central sector scheme. It means that the chairperson of the District Magistrate’s office oversees the activities at the district level who later establish project societies. 10  

The Indian government has also collaborated with programs of other ministries and departments making NCPL successful 11 . The major focus of the departments has been on education. The department of education is more aggressive as compared to the old days. However, child labor cannot only be finished by dwelling on the education section. As a result, the departments also make efforts to improve the socio-economic context of children and their families. The departments that have converged to make the project successful include the ministries of Education, Rural Development, Women and Child Development, Labor and Employment and other social security plans such as National Family Benefit. Furthermore, the Indian government works hand in hand with International Labor Organization to finish the issues of child labor. India was the first country to sign a memorandum with (ILO) when it first launched the child Elimination Program.

Many governments all over the globe have devised different child labor policies, and a majority of them are related to trade policies. For instance, the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU) workshop between different Arab countries aligned trade union priorities such as eliminating child labor. It defined ways to combat children recruitments in mining field, construction, and chemical industries 12 . In the African continent, there exists the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC), which held a workshop in Swaziland to establish ways of eliminating child labor 13 . 

It is evident that majority of countries in the world are moving towards a low child labor situation. The nature of the decline can be explained using various perspectives. Industrialization and the invention of new technologies in work-places have contributed to the reduction of child labor. The invention of machines has limited the chase for child workers by many employers 14 . Secondly, the issue of legislation and the formation of trade policies have also contributed significantly in discouraging child labor. Many governments and trade unions are now very strict on employers who employ children below the age of eighteen. Also, the decline of child labor can be explained regarding poverty levels 15 . Parents and caretakers who secured jobs in the past did not see the need for their children to work, but they chose to educate them by sending them to school. Fortunately, most governments had introduced free education. A strategy allows caretakers to invest in the future of their children as well as reducing their exposure to child labor. 

In conclusion, I believe that education is the core factor to help in the eradication of child labor. It should not only be done on children but the entire nation. When governments, stakeholders, and citizens are sensitized on the importance of children to the future of the society, the levels of child workforce will go down. Closely related to this is the issue of the girl child education. I believe that to achieve a productive society both boys and girls should receive the same statutes of education and none should be undermined. Parents should also be educated on the importance of child development to give them insight on the appropriate environment to bring up a child. 


Beling, Willard A. Pan-Arabism and labor,. Vol. 4: Distributed for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies of Harvard University by Harvard University Press, 1960

Child Labour in India –Rights, Welfare and Protection by Dipak Das, 2011

Cunningham, Hugh. Child labor and industrialization No. 307504: International Labour Organization, 1995.

Edmonds, Eric V., and Nina Pavcnik,. Child labour in the global economy. The Journal of Economic Perspectives 19, no. 1 (2005): 199-220.).

Hagemann, Frank, Yacouba Diallo, Alex Etienne, and Farhad Mehran,. Global child labour trends 2000 to 2004 International Labour Office, 2006.

Hamburg, David A. Today's Children, Creating a Future for a Generation in Crisis: Time Books, 201 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022, 1994

National Child Labour Project,. 2016. Childlineindia.Org.In http://www.childlineindia.org.in/national-child-labour-project.htm.

Home Ministry of Labour & Employment,. 2016. Labour. Nic. In . http://labour.nic.in/

Human Rights Watch, the Small Hands of Slavery, 1996)

India, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Annual Report 2012-13, p. 91)

Jauch, Herbert. Building a Regional Labour Movement: The Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordination Council SATUCC, 2001

Sundaram, Lanka. Indian labour in Ceylon: Int'l Lab. Rev. 23 (1931): 369. 

Unicef, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.

Weiner, Myron. "Child labour in India: putting compulsory primary education on the political agenda." Economic and Political Weekly (1996): 3007-3

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