Monday, June 20, 2011

Week 3, Blog #2 Child Labor in the U.S. and Internationally

Child labor is an important global issue associated with poverty, inadequate educational opportunities, gender inequality, and a range of health risks. Work affecting a child’s health and schooling should be eliminated, according to UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labor Organization, (Roggero, Mangiaterra, Bustreo, Rosati, 2007). In the United States and more significantly in the State of Arizona if a child between the ages of 14-15 would like to work it must be outside of school hours. The child cannot work after 7:00 p.m. unless it is summer break at which they can work till 9:00 p.m (U.S. Department of Labor, 2011).

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are approximately 250 million child laborers worldwide, with at least 120 million of them working under circumstances that have denied them a childhood and in conditions that jeopardize their health and even their lives. Most working children are ages 11 to 14 years old, but as many as 60 million are between the ages of 5 and 11 (Roggero, Mangiaterra, Bustreo, Rosati, 2007).

I had no idea the problem was this huge. Watching the video was particularly hard because I buy incense that says on the label it is made in India. Seeing those little hands rolling the sticks in the shimmer powder and hearing the health effects that it can cause was devastating (Meehan, 2004).

How do I support ending child labor? Is it best to not purchase the sticks? I see the family’s dilemma. They need money to survive. They are not living lavishly in huge mansions with greatly adorned clothing. They are modest people enduring struggles that I have never known.

I really appreciated the views of Shanta Sinha, founder of the MVF. She said something that struck me. Shanta Sinha stated that they observed once the children were placed in school the wages for the jobs children once performed were forced to be raised because the adults refused to do the work at the price the children were forced to accept (Meehan, 2004). This correlated with my reasoning as to why the United States created child labor laws shortly after the depression.
It’s amazing to think that adults who understand that the labor is difficult and therefore pay must be equivalent don’t unionize. Perhaps this is western ignorance. But I wish the descendants of the untouchables could come together and force a change to occur.

Yet, I can see that the relationship is co-dependent. In the United States as consumers we want inexpensive products. Here and there you’ll find a media story about a sweat shop in Guam, but the spotlight on these issues is few and far between. My generation is so busy watching Jersey Shore we have no idea what millions of kids are enduring every day.

Meehan, Ruth (director). "India: Working to End Child Labor" 2004. Online video clip. Arizona Universities Library Consortium. FMG Video On Demand. Peadar King (Executive Producer)Accessed on 20 July 2010.

Roggero, P., Mangiaterra, V., Bustreo, F., & Rosati, F. (2007). The health impact of child labor in developing countries: Evidence from cross-country data. American Journal of Public Health, 97(2), 271-5.

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