Society
Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Child Labor around the Globe

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by 154 countries, child labor is prohibited. But despite this, child labor is not only massively used in the factories, but is also becoming more common. According to the International Labor Organization, in developing countries about 250 million children have to work.

It is reported that there are 153 million working children in Asia, 80 million - in Africa, and 17 million - in Latin America. "Many of them work under the conditions that are dangerous to their physical, mental and emotional development," human rights activists report. For example, children are involved in activities such as slavery, prostitution and pornography, participation in armed conflicts, as well as working in mines, agriculture and construction.

According to human rights activists, the majority of children working around the world (69 percent) is employed in agriculture and picks cotton, tobacco, coffee, rice, sugar cane and cocoa. The list of countries that exploit child labor is topped by Myanmar, where children are mostly used to harvest rice, sugar cane and rubber. According to the report of the U.S. Labor Department, the six countries with the maximum number of violations also include India, Brazil, Bangladesh, China and the Philippines. Among the "leaders" in the use of child labor are countries such as Somalia, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and North Korea.

Today every third child between the age of 7 to 16 in Myanmar is employed. Usually children perform the hardest work. Until recently, child labor has been extensively used in the military where thousands of children were used as loaders in the army and where soldiers beat and raped them. During military conflicts children were used as human shields, there were cases when they were used on minefields. Children are used in the army not only for work but also service. According to ILO, Myanmar has approximately 70,000 soldiers under 18, and they are given machine guns at the age of 12.

Under the pressure of international public organizations in recent years the regime in the country officially somewhat softened, and thousands of children were sent to work at construction sites where mostly girls work. The girls start heavy work at the age of six. Eight-year-old children have to carry twenty pound trays with cement mortar.

Entire families work in construction in Myanmar, but only adults are paid. Children do not receive remuneration; at best they can be fed. Typically, adults watch children to perform slave labor, and if the family has no children, women have to work. Children do not attend school. According to statistics, 40 percent of children in Myanmar do not receive any education. It is considered good luck for children if the parents sell them into slavery in neighboring countries where they are paid some money. The most desirable work is the work at tea plantations where it is not too hard, and the kids have a chance to survive. Parents are the ones that bring children to business owners, and the latter do not care which one of the family members are working for them.

The situation in India is not much better. This country has the highest rate of child and forced labor in areas like gold mining, collection of cocoa and tailoring. According to the report of the U.S. Labor Department, children are sold by traffickers and forced to work as early as at the age of five, and turn into modern-day slaves. In neighboring Bangladesh, according to the report of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), 33 million children under the age of 18, which is 56 percent of the child population, now live below the international poverty line defined as income of U.S. $1 per person per day.

Bangladeshi children are forced to look for work because of extreme poverty typical for the majority of families in the country. Young students drop out of school to continue to work and help their families to cope with poverty.

According to statistics, approximately 50 percent of students of elementary schools in Bangladesh drop out before the end of fifth grade. Due to economic hardship, even those parents who want to send their children to school cannot afford it. As a result, children are sent to fields and factories where they work 12 hours a day and receive U.S. $1.70 per day.

According to official data, in Bangladesh, child labor constitutes over 12 percent of the total workforce, and the population of the country traditionally does not consider this situation a problem.

Today, child labor is used not only by local businesspeople, but also well-known international companies. According to the International Labor Rights Fund, child labor is used by Monsanto. In India alone over 12,000 children are employed on cotton plantations owned by Monsanto and other transnational agro-corporations. Many children have died or suffered serious illness from exposure to pesticides. Meanwhile, the annual income of the company continues to grow and now amounts to $5.4 billion.

Nestlé is also accused of the use of child labor. According to human rights activists, child labor is most commonly used in the production of chocolate. As estimated by the U.S. State Department, on Ivory Coast (Africa) where over 40 percent of the cocoa bean plantations are located, an average of 109,000 children work in terrible conditions. Today, Pegatron Group in China engaged in the assembly of Apple products is also accused of using child labor.

Child labor continues to be widely exploited in many countries around the world. The struggle of social organizations and individuals is just a drop in the ocean. Millions of children are still deprived of their childhood, primarily because of the poor economy of their country of residence and the tradition which considers child labor the norm.

Obviously, the main reason forcing children to work is the fact that survival of their families depends on it. The growth of child exploitation today first of all has to be stopped through the solution of economic problems in the countries with the highest rates of child labor.


Julia Chmelenko