Tuesday, June 28, 2011

child labor

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According to UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, Child laborers around the world, most of whom are engaged in extreme and hazardous forms of work, are being robbed of their fundamental rights, not only including the right to develop to the fullest through education, but the right to a childhood. (World of Work The Magazine of the ILO, No. December 17, pg. 4) Many forms of child labor can be hazardous to a childs health. Child laborers often work as many as 1 hours a day (sometimes more), work in dangerous conditions such as poorly ventilated factories with harmful fumes in the air, handle hazardous materials such as toxic chemicals, and use inappropriate tools and machinery designed for adults. There have been direct links between many forms of child labor and poor physical development in child workers. (Child Labor Targeting the Intolerable, pg. 8) It is estimated that about 10 million children between the ages of five and 14 work at least full time. If children for whom work is a secondary activity are included, the figure reaches 50 million. (ILO Geneva, Child Labor Targeting the Intolerable, pg. 7) Child labor is more prevalent in developing countries but also exists in industrialized nations. While the majority of child labor exists in South and Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa, child labor is also a growing concern in Eastern Europe where countries are undergoing the economic transition from a command economy to a market economy. (Child Labor Targeting the Intolerable) According to Norwegian Minister of Development and Human Rights Hilde F. Johnson, Child Labor is both a consequence and a cause of poverty, and strategies for poverty reduction are needed to address the root cause of child labor. (World of Work The Magazine of the ILO, No. December 17, pg. 4) Although no one claims to fully understand the macro-economic forces behind child labor, on a much smaller level, intense poverty forces many families to send their children to work. Because poor families spend most of their income on food, the childrens income can be important for survival. However, poverty does not necessarily cause child labor. (Child Labor Targeting the Intolerable, pg. 17) According to the ILO, a common reason given for the use of child labor is that young children have nimble fingers and are better suited to make delicate and intricate products (for example, hand-woven carpets). However, the ILO found that in many hazardous industries adults work side by side with children, performing the same tasks just as well as the children. (Child Labor Targeting the Intolerable, pp. 18-1)

It is assumed that hiring children is cheaper than hiring adults, but there are also non-economic factors behind child labor. For example, children are thought to be more likely to take orders, more likely perform menial tasks without complaint, and less likely to be absent from work. (Child Labor Targeting the Intolerable, pg. 0) The ILO opposes child labor because it believes that children should be at school and not in the workplace and be given opportunities to enter gainful skilled employment as adults. According to the ILO, the estimated 50 million working children aged between 5 and 14 worldwide are children who either have no education at all or have had very little education. These figures are supported by UNESCOs statistics on education

· 145 million of the worlds children aged 6-11 are out of school, (85 million girls, 60 million boys).

· 8 million children aged 1-17 are out of school, (151 million girls, 1 million boys). (UNESCO, World Education Report 15, Paris, UNESCO 15)

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So why are children laboring instead of learning? Basic education in most countries is not free and in most developing countries schooling is not available for all children; where schools are available, the quality of education is often poor and the content is not relevant; in situations where education is not affordable or parents see no value in education, families send children to work, rather than to school. This particularly affects children in poverty and those belonging to the culturally and socially disadvantaged and excluded groups. As a result, they easily become victims of child labor exploitation. (The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)) Aside from manufacturing the goods listed in the ILO Kids Site (matches, carpets, shoes, etc.), young children work in agriculture, in mines, in glass and ceramic factories, in the deep-sea fishing industry, as domestic servants, as prostitutes, and even as slaves. (Child Labor Targeting the Intolerable, pp. 1-14)

The ILO is currently focused on eradicating the worst forms of child labor which include (a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; (b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; (c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties; (d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

The International Labor Organization has been fighting child labor since it was formed in 11. The ILO has developed twelve international labor conventions (or labor standards) to help nations to eradicate child labor. In 1, the ILO created its International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, or IPEC.

IPEC works with countries to help them combat child labor, and has implemented over 600 anti-child labor action programs since it was founded. Countries participating in IPECs efforts include Brazil, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand, Turkey, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Tanzania, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Honduras and Dominican Republic. IPEC is in action across four continents Action in India The Institute for Plantation, Agricultural and Rural Workers (IPARW) in India helps child laborers working on plantations. By educating the children, parents, and managers, IPAWR was able to get 7 kids out of the plantations and into schools. Action in Turkey In cooperation with IPEC, the Department of Health of the Municipality of Greater Ankara opened a Center for Children Working on the Streets of Ankara. The Center places boys 6 to 15 who have been working on the streets into formal apprenticeship-training schools. Action in Kenya The African Network for the Prevention and Protection of Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) puts on plays to teach people about child labor and encourage children to attend school. The plays are performed by and for children, parents, teachers and community leaders. Action in Brazil IPEC has worked with the Municipal Child Foundation of Campos dos Goitacazes (FMMenor) to help child laborers on sugar-cane plantations attend school, get access to health care, and receive vocational training.

There are many myths about child labor that should be covered. Myth #1 Poverty is the single major cause of child labor. While it is true that child laborers come from impoverished families, it should be noted that child labor also perpetuates poverty since the child laborer who survives the harsh conditions becomes an unskilled, debilitated adult who is not employed even in the industry that exploited him / her earlier. Furthermore, child laborers receive a low, negligible income and often no wages at all. Child labor also depresses adult wages and keeps adults unemployed. Myth # If children do not work, they and their families will starve. Starvation persists even when families and the children in it are working. Starvation is the result of a combination of factors, including price policy, low income, low purchasing power, income disparity, unequal food distribution, poor availability of food, lack of access to food production and unequal land ownership patterns. Myth # Children themselves want to work. When children express their preference for work, it is because of their inability to conceive of an alternative. Children are compelled to work by the non-availability or lack of access to school, an irrelevant school curriculum and physical abuse from teachers. For children, earning enhances their feeling of self-worth and hence their demands center on the improvement of working conditions and dignity of labor. However, the issue of an enabling work environment should be dealt with separately without obscuring the realization of childrens rights. The expression of the desire to work by children reflects their lack of trust in adults to change their situation. Myth #4 There is nothing wrong in allowing children to work in non-hazardous occupations. The work hazardous is a debatable point because while referring to hazardous industries here, one is not referring to the inherent hazardous nature of any industry. The reference is to what is hazardous to the child. In this respect even jobs that are not inherently hazardous become hazardous for children, if they are made to do the job for long periods and if they are being denied their rights to development, education, medical care, recreation, leisure and play. Myth #5 Industry will collapse if child labor is not available. The International Labor Organization held a workshop to present the findings of studies that have been conducted on the profitability to an industry if child labor was replaced with adult labor. The industries examined included carpet, brassware, gem polishing, and match industries. It was found that looking only at the economic implications, the increase in the cost of a product caused by replacing children with adults is only marginal, can be largely absorbed by the industry or if passed on to the consumer, the increase in the sale of the final product would also be marginal.

The Free the Children Organization has came up with a ten-point plan that they believe can help change the future of child labor. “1. Ban the most hazardous forms of child work including bonded labor, work in heavy industry or with dangerous substances and commercial sexual exploitation. Governments should support the upcoming ILO Convention on Hazardous Labor - and act against these most extreme forms of child labor immediately. . Guarantee universal primary education. If they gave it sufficient priority even the poorest governments could deliver on this goal, to which they have all committed themselves by signing up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. . Make education more flexible, relevant and attractive to child workers. It is no good simply opening the school doors and assuming the children will flock in. There are creative initiatives for state education systems to build on. 4. Register all births. This is vital if there is to be a chance of regulating under-age working. 5. End structural adjustments crucification of Southern economies, which have slashed education spending while fostering a dog-eat-dog climate which helps push children into work on the streets. 6. Raise the status of child domestic workers. Existing laws need to be applied to this forgotten group of child laborers and a new worldwide campaign launched to draw attention to their plight. Consciousness-raising can work wonders here, as a multimedia campaign in Sri Lanka recently proved. 7. Rein in the transnational corporations. In the absence of a world body prepared to regulate the transnational, consumer pressure must do what it can to force corporations to adopt voluntary codes of conduct. These must apply to their suppliers employees as well as their own - and must offer dismissed children an adequately funded educational alternative. 8. Give child workers jobs to their own adult relatives so that the family as a whole does not suffer. This must be established as a general principle of anti-child-labor practice worldwide. . Support child workers organizations - along with their demand for more protection and rights in the workplace. If childrens wages are raised to the level of adults it will remove one of the main incentives to employ children. 10. Gather more information. Data on child labor is notoriously sketchy and inadequate. More research is especially needed into the invisible areas of child labor - those within the home, on the family farm or domestic service - which particularly affect girls.” (New Internationalist, July 17. “Tackling Child Labor, A Ten-Point Plan.”)

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