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Child labor (a social issue)

Updated on April 30, 2015


Child labor is the labor provided by children in factories and other realms of production. It is equated with exploitation, working for long hours under physical and mental conditions of stress and strain. The environments under which children work in factories are, to say the least, favorable. Child labor is branded by various names, like bonded labor, forced labor etc. It is relevant to discuss, first of all, the causes of child labor in the Third World Countries in general and Pakistan in particular.

Child labor increases due to poverty

Economic poverty is cited to be the cause of child labor. Poor parents are compelled to send their children, in urban areas to carpet manufacturing sector in Pakistan where the work under extremely unfavorable environs. The term 'bonded labor' applies to the children working in different industries, either receiving no money or paltry amount for supplying labor. The poor parents pledge their children to the factory owners, knowing little that they work under most dehumanizing conditions. Likewise, children join motor workshops to become motor mechanics and the process of apprenticeship continues for a fairly long time, till depending upon their individual inclination to pick up the dynamics of motor mechanics , are finally able to start their careers as mechanics independently. During the period of training spreading over a number of decades, they have to remain content with whatever paltry wages they get. In the rural areas, children of primary school age are needed to wok on family farms. Child labour is thus result of economic poverty.

Michael P. Todaro's views

It is interesting to discuss the rationale of this phenomenon. Michael P. Todaro in his book 'Economic Development in the Third World' (third edition) explains this most succinctly in the following words:

"First the private costs of primary education (especially in view of the 'opporunity cost' of a child's labour to poor families) are higher for poor students than for more affluent students. Secound the expected benefits of primary education are lower for poor students. Together the higher costs and lower expected benefits of education mean that a poor family's "rate of return" from investment in a a child's education is lower than it is for other families. The poor are, therefore, more likely a drop out during early years of schooling..... As a result of these higher opportunity costs, school attendance and therefore, school performance tends to be much lower for children of poor families than for those form relatively higher income backgrounds." Michael P. Todaro's views can help us understand the child labour's phenomenon. Economic poverty comels the rural parents to withdraw their children from primary schools to keep them engaged in some farming operations owing to the opportunity cost of their children labour to them. Likewise in urban areas , economic considerations motivate the poor parents to push their small children to factories to sell labour with no or any near wage. Economically speaking, it is poverty, squalor and hunger that contribute to child labour with its attendant excesses.

While child labor cannot be viewed with equanimity of mind owing to various excesses attached to it, it has however, some redeeming features. The children get on-the-job training in various technical vocations, and most of them turn out to be good mechanics to technicalities of their profession. However, if they were to receive the fundamental theoretical knowledge through preliminary training, their performance could immensely improve. The lack of theoretical knowledge is a limiting factor to their efficiency. If this deficiency were overcome, it would go a long way to improve the labor productivity. It calls for making certain arrangements of training for the exposure of labor to basic principles of mechanics.

The developed countries charge under-developed countries for violating human rights of the child labor. The Western mass media criticizes under-developed countries for ignoring the rights of children by making them work, especially in carpet factories under inhuman conditions. Even sports goods, surgical instrument industries are also the target of employing the child labor. Organised sort of propaganda has been started against Pakistan, on the basis of which carpet-sports goods exports are refused to enter into many developed countries. Child labor thus constitutes a threat to Pak exports, especially in carpets, sports, surgical instruments sectors. It may be pointed out that child labor is employed even in the United States of America, India, Bangladesh, Brazil and Mexico in varying degrees. The evil exists in many of the developed countries, whereas it is practised in the under-developed countries on a comparatively large scale for reasons noted above.

From amongst the human rights, the first is to live. It is a right of subsistence. Other rights come later. The USA has not guaranteed the subsistence rights to its citizens. Subsistence rights are, however, guaranteed in the UK. The US is a violater of the subsistence right, and as such it needs to be tried on the score.

The developed nations, if at all they are to insist for the protection of human rights, should force the governments in under-developed countries to guarantee subsistence to all citizens. The economically developed countries also should enforce subsistence rights in their own land. The developed countries don't bother about this right to be enforced in the poor countries as they are not interested in the survival of the poor. Above all, they themselves follow such economic policies at the international plane as to keep the poor in a state of permanent poverty. They talk glibly of poverty in a rhetorical manner but are not much interested in its eradication. They indirectly wish the perpetration of poverty as its continuation indirectly contributes to their prosperity. The developed countries instead of finding fault with the child labor on grounds of human rights violation, should endeavor to ensure the observance of the first rights to live. If this right were met many of the evils of child labor would vanish. It is economic poverty which leads to the emergence of child labor, followed by excesses in the form of the violation of rights of children.

I deem it proper to point out here that in the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, some Europeans left for the North America, where they butchered the Red Indians to establish the US. According to Dr. A.H. Khayal, the White House is founded upon the innumerable skulls of the Red Indians. The very foundation of the US rests on aggression, and it looks somewhat odd when the US talks about non-aggression or preaches for the restoration of human rights relating to child labor. The US committed aggression against the North Vietnamese, who fought it most valiantly. The US demonstrated naked aggression resulting in tremendous loss of human life. Similarly, all the presently developed powers having roots in aggression, quote scriptures like a devil, when they propagate moral principles. They allege to keep aloft the torch of human rights when they themselves are the worst stream rollers of the same. It is political debauchery to talk about human rights by the developed countries, as they are the practitioners of expediency. It is political mode of achieving some mundane objective by pressurizing a poor country and putting it to an awkward position either through imposition of economic sanctions or rejection of its exports.

This however, does not mean that poor countries like, Pakistan should not pay attention to deal with the evil of child labor. Arrangements must be made for imparting relevant education and the training of child labor. The government through legislation can effectively control the menace of child labor. It should be made incumbent on the manufacturers to arrange for the technical training of labor. It can be facilitated through the establishment of labor training institutes at different places depending on the nature of localized industries. In Sialkot (Pakistan), the institute can provide theoretical-cum-practical training to labor in sports surgical instruments manufacture. In Faisalabad (Pakistan), arrangements can be made for the exposure of labor to the basic manufacturing processes in textile sector. This would go a long way to improve the productivity of labor.

The need of the hour is to evolve a comprehensive integrated strategy, which should inter alia include the universalisation of primary education, literacy formal, non-formal programmes, employment generating policy, sponsoring of technical institutes for the training of labor.

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      Peter 2 years ago

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