Child labor is a problematic concept. Those using the term loosely rarely define, in terms of age, the word "child". A "child" could be a person under the age of 21, 18, 16, 13, etc. depending on the attitudes and beliefs of the user of the term.
The history of child labor
Child labor has always existed in one form or another in every society. Young people have almost always been given the responsibility of performing certain services within the family, and/or required to support themselves by working for others outside the family.
Throughout most of the human history, young people of various ages have been engaged in activities which could be considered "labor" (some form of work). This has been normal and accepted. This provides social and economic benefits to the family as well. Children were expected to "help out" within the family by caring for siblings, cooking, cleaning, etc. and to "pay their way" by producing goods or providing services (to the family or to others) as resources were scarce and surpluses did not exist to allow young people the "luxury" of refraining from engaging in economic activities (or, alternatively, to deny young people the opportunity to participate in adult society and therefore to learn what "being an adult" means).
Young people, traditionally, have usually followed in the footsteps of their parents and adopted the occupation of one of their parents as their own--the son of a man who was a farmer would usually became a farmer, the daughter of a mother who was a basket maker would usually become a basket maker, etc.. Therefore, the expertise of the parent was transmitted to the child through informally educating the child--that is, by having the child participate in the activity alongside the adult.
As surpluses are accumulated within societies--either by "economic rape" perpetrated by one society on another as the result of warfare, by technological innovation, or by the fortuitous availability of resources due to favorable environmental circumstances--some members of the societies may then be excluded from the roles of the production of goods and services.
"Childhood" has been extended from its traditional end ("childhood" ended when the "child" could begin to contribute meaningfully to the activities of the family) to the arbitrary age of 16 or 18 in most non-agriculturally based societies. The requirement for more extensive education of young people so that they may be productive in technologically advanced societies has also tended to encourage the continuation of "childhood" long past its "natural end."
Newly industrialized societies
Education in many newly industrialized societies has neglected to teach the members of their societies the economic history of their societies, which includes the role of young people as "workers" or "laborers". Therefore many people are easily swayed by propaganda put out by those claiming claiming to want to "save" children from whatever "horrors" they imagine exist.
"Child labor" is one of the "horrors" that has been put forward by these moral crusaders as a "serious problem needing addressing". <-- stopping editing here for now -- user4>
Abuses of children involved in child labor
Abuses do exist, and have always existed, and can always be expected to exist, with regards to how adults treat children.
Children at the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution were employed (cheaply) in menial and sometimes dangerous occupations. This was a result of overpopulation, the growth of cities, and the migration from rural areas to cities by those seeking economic betterment.
This has given the "moral crusaders" ammunition to attack--without discrimination, and by using wild histrionics--any and all economic activities engaged in by children. For example, Glenda Giron writes:
|“||With all good intentions, the United States passed the Child [Labor] Deterrence Act in order to ban imports of goods made by children younger than fifteen. In response to this short-sighted policy, Bangladesh dismissed thousands of child workers from their jobs, who immediately ended up in the streets, mainly working as child prostitutes. . . . . I believe that the way we treat the most vulnerable members of our society reflects who we are, and the development and wellbeing of children should be a primary concern to all nations. Nevertheless, policy makers must understand that when faced with this complex human rights issue, simple moral indignation is not the best guide to effective public policy. The Guatemalan government must take a realistic approach to combat the child sex tourism industry. Most child rights advocates may oppose child labor; however, when faced with a strong demand for child sex tourism and a supply of impoverished Guatemalan children, responsible societies must choose the lesser of two evils.||”|
The elimination of the recent excessive restrictions which have been placed on economic activity engaged in by young people (while continuing to fight against the worst of the abuses) would empower young people, and reduce young people's dependance on their parents or other caregivers for economic sustenance.
Giving children options for supporting themselves and for pursuing their own dreams, as an element of "child liberation," would establish the rights of children to personal agency, and would free children from the tyranny of parental control. This could also be beneficial for adults--including BoyLovers--who wish to develop relationships and friendships with younger people.
- Giron, Glenda L (01/01/2005). "Underexposed child sex tourism industry in Guatemala". Kennedy School review 6: 59.
- For example, see the following:
- Banning Child Labour is Pointless, Tackle Poverty Instead
- Latin America: Can Child Labor Be a Good Thing? - TIME
- For a radical view of the dangers and excesses faced by development in modern societies, see also "Industrial Society and Its Future" by Theodore Kaczynski (1995)
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