Child labor, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), does not encompass all work that is done by children. Instead, it refers work that is physically, mentally, socially, or morally dangerous and harmful to them. This is the kind of work that deprives children of the opportunity to attend school; or which interferes with their schooling by either forcing or requiring them to leave school prematurely; or to try and combine their school attendance with an unreasonably long and heavy workload. Whether or not specific forms of work can be christened child labor is dependent on the age of the affected child, the kind of work they do – and for how long, the conditions they are subjected to while working, and the objectives that individual countries are intent on pursuing. So while child labor rightfully involves the enslavement of children and their separation from their families, its definition also varies from country to country, and from sector to sector within these countries (ILO, 2004).
History.com (2009) explains that children had apprenticed and been servants throughout most of human history. It was during the industrial revolution, however, that they were worked long hours for very little money in dangerous conditions in factories or mines. They were seen as not only easier to control and manage but also a more economical choice by the industrialists as they demanded way lesser wages when compared to adults. These very reasons still hold true today in places where children are forced into various acts of child labor where they must contend with horrendous working conditions and no adherence to national minimum wage and maximum hour standards. Indeed, part of the reason that child labor is so attractive to unsavory employers is that it is very difficult for unions to organize children.
Child labor ought to be banned because it exposes children to inhumane treatment where they are handled more like goods than people. The sale and trafficking of child laborers, along with practices such as serfdom, debt bondage, and the forced recruitment of minors for use in armed conflict, robs children of their innocence. Moreover, their physical, mental, and moral well-being are jeopardized by their use in such practices as child prostitution and pornography production, as well as their use in other types of hazardous work such as the production and trafficking of drugs. Not only are these practices likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children, but they also deprive them of their childhood, their dignity, and potential (ILO, 2004).
In a nutshell, child labor ought to be banned because it exposes children to economic exploitation thanks to the fact that they are paid at the lowest possible rate, or not at all, even when they are forced to work under the worst possible conditions where they can suffer physical deformations and long-term health issues. What’s worse, child labor perpetuates poverty as it denies working children an opportunity to get an education or to physically develop in a healthy fashion – all of which means that these children grow up to become adults that have little earning prospects. If for no other reason, however, child labor should be banned because it means that jobs that should ideally go to adults end up going to the cheaper and more docile children who uncouth employers would prefer any day, even as its prevalence means that all workers eventually suffer lower wages.
History.com. (2009). Child labor. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/child-labor
International Labor Organization [ILO] (2004). Child labor: A textbook for university students. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labour Office.