I have thought a great deal about child labour. I have seen images of children in many countries of the world who must work at jobs that are beyond their strength and it is a very bad thing.
Child labour is a topic that is not easy to discuss. Many in the richer countries of the world where there is provision for education and laws forbidding children to work until they reach 16 years of age, also forbidding heavy work, do not understand how it is for people living in extreme poverty. In the UK, for example, poverty might mean no new clothes or shoes or none of the latest gadgets. For many around the world it means no food, no shoes or clothes. Maybe a shack with plastic sheeting to keep out the wet, if they are lucky. To get one meal a day is a luxury for some. Poverty is once again starting to hit citizens of the richer countries but even so, there is usually food. So far.
Every so often there are protests calling for the banning of child labour. We are told we should check where the products come from that we buy and boycott the firms if we discover children work in the manufacture of them. I do agree that something should be done to stop child labour but stop for a minute and think.
Children who work at a young age do so because there is no money to buy anything. When we throw these children out of work what do they do? How do they get food?
To take the work away is not the answer, They still need an income but where is it to come from? These countries have no welfare state and if there are free schools the children cannot attend because they must work in the school time or they do not eat. It is a vicious circle.
The protesters who want child labour stopped have the right idea and are sometimes successful in getting factories closed where children are employed and then they may celebrate a victory often with a meal at their favourite restaurant. They do not see the children in their usual restaurant. Searching through garbage by markets and shops or the municipal dump is where they might find something to eat. Or they have to resort to begging.
In an ideal world all children have an education and a safe, happy home and then go on to study or learn a trade or profession, so that they get a good job to provide for their future. This is what I would like for all the children in the world. But………..
We come back to the problem of child labour. It is still there. As someone who grew up in a country where I had a good education and a happy childhood, I do not like the idea of children working. I also do realise that it is something that cannot be eradicated overnight. It costs a lot of money to set up a welfare system in a country that would enable poor people to receive money to allow their children to go to school and not work. This must be financed from the people themselves, from the taxes. If they are so poor that their children must also work how can this be achieved. It is true that a lot of the rich in some of these countries do not pay any tax because they have the power to decide not to.
One solution is, if children are employed, they are treated as children and given work that is not beyond their capacity and that they are able to get an education. Sometimes if children are employed as servants in a private house they are treated well and given some education but not often. It is quite usual for them to be beaten for any small mistake or starved.
They must feel that they are born to misery and that is all they will ever know.
I do not believe that the child labour issue will disappear for a long time, if ever. This means that there needs to be a way to make it easier for these children. Compulsory free education is a must, so that the employer must ensure that the children go to school at least for part of the day. With an education it can be possible that a way out of the miserable existence can be found.
I think that countries should “put their money where their mouth is” as the saying goes. If “so called civilised” countries want to stop child labour they must be prepared to finance the children they are taking the jobs away from. Not just sit back happy that they have achieved it and forget them.
There are many reasons that children work:
There is such abject poverty at home, maybe parents are sick and cannot work themselves.They have no parents or family.
Some parents think education is unimportant and even if they don’t need the money they send the children to work.
Some families are professional beggars and a new baby in the family is another “partner in the family business.”
Besides this there are families who are very poor but would die of shame rather than let their children work. To eradicate child labour is something all people in the world should want and I pray that someday it is achieved.