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Child Labor Laws Around the World

Yes, even nowadays, in this modern age and era, it’s heartbreaking to know that an estimated 265 million children (in 2013) aged 5 to 17 are still trapped in child labor, including heavy labor and the handling of hazardous materials, and —especially during the Coronavirus pandemic. According to UNICEF figures, these 265 million make up almost 17 percent of the worldwide child population.

Most of them do not get a chance to receive a formal education, and several of them do not even get proper food and nutrition. Moreover, at least half of them have been involved in the worst of the working conditions, slavery, and other illicit activities such as prostitution and human trafficking.

In Bangladesh, children as young as 6 work up to 110 hours a week. In the worst cases, young children work more than 100 hours a week. However, the United Nations, the International Labor Organization, and the national governments have been trying their best to eradicate this inhuman practice and bring back the childhood of these innocent children. Their goals include ending child labor in all forms by 2025. A worthy ambition, but sadly it doesn’t look like the target will be met. Not even close. With the current development, there will be 121 million more child laborers by 2025. That is one of the biggest roadblocks to human rights worldwide. Let’s check out some child labor laws worldwide.

Categories of Child Labor as Defined by The International Laws:

  • Human trafficking, slavery, debt bondage, and other forced labor, prostitution, pornography, and forced recruitments into armed conflicts are termed s the unconditional worst forms of child labor.

  • Any kind of labor performed by the child, which is not permissible at his specific age (as defined by the national legislation), might hinder the child’s education and development.

  • Labor that might hinder the mental, physical, or moral well-being of the child. It usually includes working in hazardous conditions or the nature of the work being performed.

Minimum Working Age: Most countries retain strict laws and have restricted the minimum age for working to 14-15 years. However, there are some exceptions, which have been set by the International Labor Organization. For developing countries, where the country’s economy might be dependent on the working children, it might be permissible for children above 12 years of age to do light work in suitable conditions and as long as it does not affect their formal education.

Age Restrictions and Types of Works:

Along with setting the minimum working age of 14 years, the ILO has restricted the minimum working age to 18 years for work in hazardous conditions, such as working on a construction site, dealing with machines that could harm, or any other worst kind of jobs. “Worst Forms” of works as defined by the International Labor Organization, includes slavery, prostitution, human trafficking, and several other inhumane practices.

Penalty Imposition:

The penalties imposed for violating any kind of child labor laws depend on the situation and the location. For eg., in California, violating any child labor laws may lead up to 6 months of imprisonment in the county prison plus $500-$10000 of a monetary fine. In most countries, companies can face fines and legal suits against them if found guilty of violating child labor laws. However, substantial cultural differences and other legal complications make the laws challenging to be implemented strictly in several countries. Moreover, as per the Right To Education Project, child labor law implementation still lacks back in several countries as they do not possess enough means to enforce the laws strictly.

What Can We Do?

That pretty much sums it up. In an ideal world, our children and future generation should have the opportunity to have a childhood and develop their skills in a positive environment. They should not work in factories or fields, without pay, in less humane conditions. Lack of schools and poverty are considered the leading causes of child labor. While the world has become more aware and shocked by the prevalence of child labor, the number of working children worldwide has increased from 245 million to 168 million between 2000 and 2012. That’s some good news, but not enough.

Being Aware As a Consumer!

Companies that use child labor must stop forcing children not to buy their products. Chocolate, for example, is a growing business worldwide. What is the demand for child labor, if not higher profit margins? It’s barbaric and greedy. It’s hard to make people understand that children work if they don’t see it with their own eyes. There are many facts and videos on the Internet about child labor. We encourage you to have a look to raise awareness.

Fairtrade products are produced without the use of child labor. Buy them instead and encourage the efforts and initiatives of individual companies. When buying carpets, look for the “Rugmark” which signifies that children do not make the carpet. There are actually applications that help consumers identify and browse companies and how they scored on labor policies. You can check out the site here. When we buy products that we know are produced from child labor, we become willing participants in this abhorrent practice. It’s a hard truth, but we must all accept this responsibility!

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