Social Sciences 121
March 21, 2001
The 1990 World Summit for children was a landmark, which was attended by 71 heads of state. It was a moment of great satisfaction and encouragement for all the international bodies engaged in their pursuit of making “A world fit for children”, when 71 heads of state pledged to eradicate polio, reduce infant mortality rate, eliminate the worst forms of child labor and promote vocational training for adolescents (Sandrasagara, 7).
There is a popular public opinion that the children should not be exposed to labor tasks including employment at an age, which demands their involvement in educational and recreational activities. The activities undertaken at child age contribute to their growth and development and undertaking labor task at this age is no less than a crime. However, mostly people express this opinion based on strong emotions and the complex factors contributing to this dilemma are not understood in their real background. These factors range from legal, social, political and economic aspects, which extend far beyond the strong emotions. A detailed, careful and empathetic analysis of these factors can lead us to understand the problems of child labor on an international horizon. Powerful legislation, its strict enforcement and the extent of its implementation across the board on an international scale can serve as a foundation in addressing this curse. International studies reveal the magnitude of the grave problem of child labor. A systematic estimate, undertaken in 1985 (Black 9), calculated around 31 million street children worldwide, of whom 71 percent were child workers living at home, 23 percent kept occasional family contact, and 8 percent were entirely separated.
The contributing factors to the child labor are limitless, however, the vital few factors are external debt, poverty, lack of appropriate infrastructure, economic crisis, and social and cultural environment. It is said that the information technology has greatly contributed in globalization and transforming the world into a global village. The irony of the situation is that everything in this world is globalizing except wealth and development. The Brettonwoods institutions i.e. IMF and the World Bank have to play a strong and unbiased role in ensuring that the seeds of growth and development are injected into the developing world. Although poverty is termed to be the main causal factor for child labor in the developing world, however, some studies have shown that some child workers “are relatively from affluent families, and engage in the business for excitement and pocket money (Myers 9). This leads us to believe that merely addressing poverty in isolation will not help us to effectively eradicate the issue.
Institutionalization of the Social Sector
Additionally, it has been noted that since the 1990 World Summit for Children, there has been a relative decline in the child labor. A sense of awareness and, apart from legislation, the international pressure coupled with the ethical aspect has greatly contributed in discouraging the child work scenario in many countries. Another factor, which is of considerable importance in tackling the issue of child labor, is the lack of education. In developing countries, in particular, lack of institutionalization of the social sector, primarily that of education has also contributed to an upsurge in juvenile workers. One of the solutions is to initiate broad-based programs on education for all and this can be an agenda item for the international financial support and donors organizations. It is regrettable that these institutions emphasize on liberal economy with a lot of push on tariff structures, which are only symptoms. The root cause lies in the social, cultural and political areas, and very minimal emphasis, if not superficial, is laid on the development of infrastructure in the basic development fields.
Although, as discussed earlier, legislation exists in the international arena which require commitment from the countries who are represented on international forums, but strict enforcement and compliance is missing across the board.The declarations of the World Summit for Children in 1990 and the International Labor Organization’s Minimum Age Convention in 1973 require that most of the countries are committed to eradicate child labor. The problem becomes complex when viewed in the light of varying factors contributing to it. The rate of unemployment is yet another factor, which effects the child labor undesirably. It is not only unemployment, rather, an apparently hidden factor of underemployment also aggravates the issue.
To conclude, child labor is a complex issue which requires a deep insight into the variety of problems and factors which include partial instability, economic crisis, unemployment / underemployment, lack of legislation ; non-compliance with existing legal and ethical requirements and a highly underdeveloped social and cultural institutions / environment. Lots of efforts are required by the international community to address this multi-dimensional issue both on national and international front.
Black, Maggie. In the twilight zone: Child Workers in the hotel, tourism and catering industry.
Geneva: International Labor Organization, 1995.
Myers, William E., ed. Protecting Working Children. London: Zed Books Ltd 1991
Sandrasagara, Mithere J. “Concrete action on children rights.” The Daily
DAWN. Karachi, February 04, 2001: 7