What is Child Labor?
1. Child labor refers to the illegal and sustained employment of minors. The practice of employing children is considered exploitative by many organizations and as a result is illegal in the majority of developed nations. Throughout history, children were employed as a cost-efficient means, and stricken to unsuitable working environments. The employment of children was utilized to varying extents, but came under fire with the advent of universal schooling and the advancement of human rights. When the Industrial Revolution took place, employers and governmental agencies became more aware of working environments and employee rights; as a result of this newfound consciousness the emergence of children’s rights and the concept of worker rights attached a stigma to the employment of children.
2. Child labor refers to the employment of individuals who are under the age of majority. According to the United Nations, a minor, is considered any person under the age of 18. That being said, specific labor laws may consider those individuals under the age of 16 as children. The term “sustained labor” refers to any form of full time employment; typically children were employed in agricultural or factory settings.
3. In order to be considered child labor (as oppose to simple work experience), the child must be impeded from attending school because of their demanding work schedule.
Issues with Child Labor
1. There are numerous issues with child labor. The first of which, is that minors are not empowered by law to make choices on their own, and in the majority of cases, children who are working are forced to do so. As a result, the children are exploited for their work and their low pay requirements. In these instances, this form of employment is more closely aligned with slavery than a generic employer to employee relationship.
2. The wages earned (if any at all) are typically not kept by the children, but instead, delivered to their family members. Child labor is prevalent in poverty-stricken areas; a family will seek work for their child to add an income-earner to the household.
3. Children were often forced to work obscene hours, often times extending beyond 15 hours a day. This work schedule impeded the children from seeking an education and thus becoming advanced members of society. In addition, the working conditions were often inhumane and dangerous for the child workers.
Child Labor Laws
1. As a result of the inherent dangers associated with the employment of children, the United States (along with other developed nations) have instituted a series of laws which protect children against inhumane employment.
2. Child labor laws institute a cap on the amount of work hours a child can take part in. The laws associated with child labor are instituted by the United States Federal Government. The laws are broken down based on industry, age, and the presence of hazardous vs. non-hazardous materials. The laws also institute time limits for child workers as well as minimum wage requirements. A failure to follow these laws will result in criminal charges and the termination of the respective service or business.