Child Labor Essay, Research Paper
Honors World Geography 9-3
April 10, 1997
What would you do if your childhood was stolen? How would this robbery, commonly called child labor, affect your life? This problem is still present today. Something must be done to stop it. The social problem of child labor did not just simply disappear after the industrial revolution. It had persisted then in America and England, and it is still a problem for some third-world countries. This paper is designed to show the similarities between what American children went through in the 19th century, to the strife that the children of India are facing today. This will also outline how the United States began to stop child labor, and how the laws today are set up. In conclusion, I will review the efforts made to stop child labor today.
America Then, and India Now
The similarities between child labor conditions in America in the 1800s and India now are truly outstanding. In both countries, the young children, some age five, were forced to go into a business of some sort, usually in textiles. They did this so they could contribute to the household economy, and lighten the burden on their parents. The jobs reserved for children were menial, physically demanding, and unhealthy. Just as young Americans slaved in the coal mines, breathing harmful coal dust for at least ten hours at a time, young Indians now work behind a loom, weaving rugs, breathing in the harmful wool fibers. Thirty-seven percent of all Indians aged seven to fourteen work in these looms. Because of the massive amount of children working in these harmful conditions, both countries have had to face the problems of a weakened, uneducated work force. Education opportunities are not open to these young men and women, since work consumes all of their time not spent sleeping. If paid at all, the Americans of yesterday and the Indians of today, were paid horribly. Indians today earn less than a dollar. There is so much that India can learn from the United States’ reforms. They should look to us as an example. That is not to say; however, that the Indian government has not been trying to stop this problem. In 1986, the government passed a law prohibiting this extortion of children. Its effectiveness is nonexistent, as these types of laws are hard to enforce.
The History of the Child Labor Laws: How America Fought, and Overcame This Problem
The English had begun to solve their own problem of child labor at the turn of the 18th century, much earlier than any reforms were made in America. In 1802, the first child labor legislation was passed. It was soon followed by the 1819,1825, 1833, 1844, and the 1878 Factory acts, which gradually strengthened working standards for the children. The Americans of this time should have followed this example, but the labor revolution in America didn’t come until the turn of the 19th century.
In 1870 America, there were 75,000 workers aged fifteen and under. Child labor first became a serious American issue in the 1850s in the North. As industrialization spread south, the conditions for children became worse and worse. Because the south was lagging in industrialization, jobs for children skyrocketed. At the turn of the century, the situation got increasingly worse as immigration increased. These problems had gotten so out of hand that the National Child Labor Committee, in 1904, launched a national campaign to stop the problem. In 1916, President Wilson passed the Keating-Owen Act through Congress. This banned all articles produced by child labor to be sold in interstate commerce. It was soon overturned by a 1918 Supreme Court ruling which deemed it unconstitutional. The crusaders kept on fighting though, and the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938. It required all employers to pay their laborers at least minimum wage, and limited the age of child laborers. It is still the basis for child labor standards today. Some of the limitations include (as quoted in the FLSA):
For 14 to 15 year olds:
? May work in jobs outside school hours under the following conditions: no more than three hours on a school day with a limit of eighteen hours in a school week; no more than forty hours in a non school week; and not before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., except from June 1 to Labor Day, when the evening hour is extended to 9 p.m.
? These minors may not work in the following jobs: manufacturing, mining, most processing work, and all occupations declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.
? These forbidden hazardous occupations include: working with explosives, and radioactive materials, operation of power driven meat processing machines, most jobs in slaughtering, manufacturing of tiles, flooring, and others. (Ironic that most of these jobs were the very same ones that children worked in in the 19th century)
For 16 to 17 year olds:
? May work at any time for unlimited hours in all jobs not declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.
As you can see America changed her ways, and placed strict limitations on how much a child can work. It is a very good thing that these laws were passed, and they helped many children get an education. It stopped the destruction of the children of another generation as well.
Efforts Today to Ensure That Child Labor Will Never Be Another Social Problem
The creation of groups such as UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) have helped to curb the growth of child labor. It still exists, though, and in frightening numbers. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are between 100 and 200 million children laborers. Asia has over fifty percent of these laborers. The idea that these children will stand up and fight, form unions, and cause an uprising is ludicrous, and it is up to the adults and the governments to stop the exploitation of these innocent children. Perhaps if we can let these third-world countries know that it is child labor that is a contributing factor to them staying a third-world country, it would help them realize the mistakes they are making. One movement that is being started in India is the Rugmark system. The Rugmark seal on a rug lets the consumer know that no children were involved in the creation of that rug. It is programs like these that are the first step to helping these poverty-stricken children. We need to help give these children their childhood back. We can all do something, and we all should.