CHILD LABOR compiled by Can Erbil Summer 2007. DEFINITIONS.
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compiled by Can Erbil
Child work: Children’s participation in economic activity - that does not negatively affect their health and development or interfere with education, can be positive. Work that does not interfere with education (light work) is permitted from the age of 12 years under the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 138.
Child labor: This is more narrowly defined and refers to children working in contravention of the above standards. This means all children below 12 years of age working in any economic activities, those aged 12 to 14 years engaged in harmful work, and all children engaged in the worst forms of child labor.
An estimated 246 million children are engaged in child labor. Of those, almost three-quarters (171 million) work in hazardous situations or conditions, such as working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture or working with dangerous machinery. They are everywhere but invisible, toiling as domestic servants in homes, laboring behind the walls of workshops, hidden from view in plantations.
Millions of girls work as domestic servants and unpaid household help and are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Millions of others work under horrific circumstances. They may be trafficked (1.2 million), forced into debt bondage or other forms of slavery (5.7 million), into prostitution and pornography (1.8 million), into participating in armed conflict (0.3 million) or other illicit activities (0.6 million). However, the vast majority of child laborers – 70 per cent or more – work in agriculture.
Main Types of Child Labor
• The main and most common is parent-controlled child labor, which include
work in the child’s own household, work with the family and or in the family
business and work for an employer through the parents’ employment relationship.
• The next most common group includes children working directly for someone
not a member of the their own household, i.e. more traditional employment
relationships, undertaken by children living in their parental household.
• The third group contains children who have moved away or have been taken
away from their parental household, or whose parents are dead, and children
who have not been integrated into other households with adult heads or are being
exploited through such new household relations.
Main Types of Child Labor
Regional Child Labor Estimates
Brief History of Child Labor Regulations
Since the first regulations in Switzerland and the disclosure of the working
conditions of children in British mines in the early nineteenth century, the issue
has emerged at various times at national and international levels. Particularly during
the days of liberal trade regimes and the birth of the labor movement in Europe
in the last part of the nineteenth century, child labor was in the forefront of
the international labor debates. In 1890 Germany called the first international
conference on child labor. These efforts led to the formation of the ILO in 1919
and the adoption of the first child labor convention (ILO C5).
A number of ILO conventions followed and in 1973 a general labor market
minimum standard was adopted (ILO C138). The age limits set forth in this Convention
still form the basis for national and international legislation in the area. However all the relevant ILO conventions up to and including Convention 138 only deal with child labor in relation to the labor market.
In 1989, the fight against child labor entered into a new context when the UN
Convention for the Rights of the Child was drawn up. Here child labor was defined
not according to the activity but according to the effect of the activity on the
child. This laid the ground for a renewed understanding of child labor and a
renewed fight against it. This new approach was influential in the adoption by the
ILO of Convention 182 in 1999.
Brief History of Child Labor Regulations
Today we can say that the three conventions:
form the basis for the international definition of child labor.
ILO Minimum Age Convention (1973, 138), has been ratified by 116 countries, the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989) has been ratified by 191 countries, and the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention (1999, 182), has been ratified by 117 countries.
The conditions set forth in the three conventions are more specifically that
the work should not be hazardous or harmful to the child’s health or physical,
mental, moral or social development. In addition, for children up to the minimum
age for employment, the work or activity should not interfere with the child’s education.
Economics of child labor
Several studies shows that economically active children represent a decreasing
proportion of the total labor force as GDP per capita increases.
The World Bank (1998) reported that the labor force participation rate of children aged 10 to 14 years is highest, 30–60%, in countries with per capita income of $500 or less (at 1987 prices). But it declines quite rapidly, to 10–30%, in countries with per capita
incomes of between $500 and $1,000. This negative relationship between income
and child labor becomes less marked in the more affluent developing countries
in the $1,000 to $4,000 income ranges.
Among the studies trying to estimate the effects of changes in income:
Does Child Labor Decline with Improving Economic Status?by Edmonds (2003)
"Why Should We Care About Child Labor? The Education, Labor Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor,"
by Kathleen Beegle, Rajeev Dehejia and Roberta Gatti
A Living Wage?
An APFOL (All Pakistan Federation of Labor) study on brick kiln workers has shown that in spite of husband, wife and children working for 10–14 hours a day in the brick kilns, the familyincome in many cases remains below the national minimum wage fixed for an individual adult worker. Debt bondage and child labor in this sector could be eliminated to a large extent if the workers were paid a living wage, in place of the present highly exploitative poverty level wage.
Export industries, such as sports goods, surgical instruments, carpets, garments, sports wears, hosiery etc should take a lead in allowing a living wage to their workers.
Case#1: Sports Shoes in Indonesia
The Clean Clothes Campaign in Europe in their newsletter No.11 of August
1999 published the following set of figures on sports shoes manufactured in Indonesia:
The above figures show that while the US consumers are paying USD 100 for a
pair of sports shoes, the workers in Indonesia are getting only 40 cents. A similar
situation applies to other internationally traded goods. There exists immense possibilities
for improving the workers’ wages in goods made in third world countries
which are targeted for developed markets. The export sector should take the lead
in providing a living wage to workers.
What Could be Done?
Next: Earth Report IV – Children of Rio