Child Labour- A Historical Evil To Be Eradicated
Child labor has been one of the greatest barriers to social growth for many years. The elimination of all forms of child labor is a challenge and a long-term aim in many countries. It is considered a serious issue these days, particularly in developing countries like our own.
Child labor has been present throughout the course of various periods in history. It formed an essential part of pre-industrial economies since the levels of development and life expectancy was low and hence the demand for labor required for manual tasks was high. However, things didn’t change with industrialization in
Britain in the 18th century, as it in turn created more jobs demanding manual industrial workers.The situation worsened at the onset of the Victorian Era, when there are records of children as young as 4 years old being employed in factories with hazardous and fatal working conditions. In fact, the famous philosopher Karl Marx had also once said in opposition to child labor, “British industries could but live by sucking blood, and children’s blood too” and that U.S. capital was financed by the "capitalized blood of children".
The trend of child labor had finally started to plunge from the late 19th century as technologies improved causing the demand for educated employees to be on the rise.
Today, although we are a technologically advanced, modern civilization, child labor is still common in various parts of the world. As of 2020, more than 200 million children worldwide are still in employment majorly in Asia and Africa according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) data. The majority of these child workers are engaged in agricultural and industrial pursuits and as mentioned, belong to the more undeveloped countries and regions.
The ILO defines “Child Labour” as work depriving children of their childhood, potential and dignity. Work that may be mentally, physically, or socially detrimental to children, like slavery, recruitment for armed conflicts, labor for illicit activities (drug manufacturing), etc. Hence, consequently, it has a deleterious impact on the overall growth and development of a child. It causes several health issues like diseases, injuries, etc.
It not only has an impact on their health but also impedes their education, which is an essential component of growth. According to the 2015 ILO report on “Child Labour and Education – Progress, challenges, and future directions”, child labor severely affects education by lowering enrollment ratios as well as negatively affecting the academic performance of those who manage to combine work and education. The report also points out a negative correlation between levels of economic activity of children and youth literacy rates.
The impact of child labor on mental health is as severe as on physical health. Children develop emotional and behavioral issues caused by flashbacks of traumatic events, sleeping difficulties, depression, etc all which may push them on self-destructive paths like substance abuse so as to cope with themselves, which hinders growth. Further, limited social interactions and the burden of responsibilities at a young age with no social or emotional support hinder their moral and emotional development. The lack of emotional or intellectual stimuli also has a devastating impact on their personality development. Employment at a young age, deprives them of the opportunity to go through normal development encompassed in childhood, which is the most essential and foundational stage of life, which is why, the famous Indian Nobel laureate who has made an unparalleled contribution towards getting rid of the child labor menace, Kailash Satyarthi once exclaimed- “Every single minute matters, every single child matters, every single childhood matters.”