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Can't China Hire Adults

Updated on September 23, 2008
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Sunshine is a wife, mother of four, a relationship expert, a journalist, a photographer, a public speaker, and author.

The Chinese government makes it very hard to pin down the number of children working
The Chinese government makes it very hard to pin down the number of children working

It's estimated that as many as ten million school-age children are working in China, most in horrible conditions for long hours with little or no breaks. Chinese government officially forbids labor for children under 16, but doesn't enforce it. Most of the child laborers are in rural areas, and their families are too poor to support them, so they drop out of school, and join the work force.

China's eastern province of Jiangxi, elementary school-aged children were assembling firecrackers in school when an explosion killed fifty, 27 more injured. March 6, 2001. The younger children were inserting fuses into fireworks that had been filled with gunpowder by the older children. The investigation didn't reveal the cause of the explosion. The school received a portion of the profits from the sale of the fireworks from the local factory if the principal allowed the students to be exploited as laborers. They were third and fourth graders.

2005, Two days before Christmas in Biexinzhuang, China, five girls working in a canvas making factory finished their 12 hour shift at 1a.m.. Because their dorm room was cold, one of them got a bucket full of burning coal. Some were just thirteen, not old enough to know that when their families burned coal at home, they had chimneys to let the fumes out. All were said to be dead the next day, but forensic research shows that at least two of the girls didn't die from the fumes of the coal. In fear of getting in trouble, the factory owner put them all in caskets. At least two of the girls had injuries from struggling to get out of the caskets. The families fought as long as they could to bring the factory owner to justice, but farmers live on $500 per year to support their families. It wasn't long before they had to give up, and were offered $12,000.00 each for compensation for their children's lives if they dropped the case completely.

She can make 800 foil papers per day
She can make 800 foil papers per day

Factories looking for labor have resorted to kidnapping children. In 2000, 84 children were kidnapped from Guizhou province to work assembling Christmas lights. The youngest was ten. Children as young as four walk the streets selling flowers late into the night.

In an effort to get around the laws, many employers are contracting students to work in urban factories to cover school costs. They call them work study programs, but it's just a way to mask china's growing child labor problem. Also, factories make stipulations of contracts impossible for children to fulfill, so when they've put in their time, the factories don't pay them.

The jobs their doing are dangerous. Children should not be making fireworks or disassembling electronic waste for money. Many children are testing positive for lead poisoning from stripping parts from electronics that are dumped.

Girls drop out of school and work more often than boys. It's more important to work and help their family pay for her brother to go to school than the other way around. Farmer's daughters have the lowest economic status in the country, and rural farmers can be granted the right to have two children if the first is a girl.

China must tighten its policies if they want to truly end child labor. Poverished people need to be educated on the dangers of sending their children off to a computer dump or factory to work. School assistance should be offered to families who live in poverty. China needs to revamp their education system so that it's easier for poor children to go to school than work. China's people need to come together in an effort to end child labor. Children need to go to school, have friends, and play, not slave away in unsafe conditions for less pay than they were promised.


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