Slavery in the Factory- Part 5
Child labor is a topic that demands some consideration. Children have always been part of the work force due to economic considerations of their families.
In England and Scotland in the late 1700’s, 2/3 of the workers in 143 water-powered cotton mills were children. Without their meager addition to their family’s finances the entire family would be working in government-sponsored poor houses, and their plight would have been even more dismal.
Cultural differences come into the debate also. In SE Asia child labor (Mui Tsai) was rationalized and even encouraged as tradition.
Most countries have child labor laws that mandate a minimum age a child may work and also the number of hours /week. From our discussions regarding slave labor in factories in the previous blogs it would be hard to believe that all manufacturers follow the rules.
Again, Bangladesh disregards the rules and children work in factories for up to 16 hours a day. Some do menial work such as clipping threads from garments, while older children operate the machines in poorly ventilated, crowded quarters. There are those that argue that when children are displaced from illegal factory jobs, they simply go to another manufacturer, or worse, live off the streets. The answer remains the same, paying a living wage to adults negates the necessity of child labor.
Today there are many children who work in family businesses and there are exceptions to the child labor laws that allow this under certain conditions. Nearly all legislation requires sensible working hours which allows for education, and safe conditions. Most of these children work in agriculture, alongside their families. It would be extremely difficult for these farmers to make a living without the efforts of all the family members, especially during times of planting and harvesting. There is one disturbing note: according to labor statistics, 12% of children working in agriculture suffer injuries.
It is also thought by some sociologists that children working with family, in family run businesses, are more cognizant of family finances and appreciate the rewards of labor as opposed to children who have never worked.