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Ethical Issue of Child Labour

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Hour after hour, day after day, year after year, working tirelessly in a job you have been forced into doing with little to no pay. This is the barbaric reality of more than 100 million child labourers, some as young as five. Child labour has been around for 200-250 years and now is the time to take action and put an end to it. Child labour raises ethical problems and children’s rights, the effects it has on child labourers and cultural beliefs surrounding child labour.

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Children in developing nations like Bangladesh, Cameroon, Philippines and Ethiopia, are encouraged to start work at a young age because it is a tradition. reported that “Parents are aware of the dangers of the activities carried out by their children, but in their context of extreme poverty, they encourage them to do it nonetheless. They view it as a way for children to support themselves and perhaps even contribute to household expenses.” Some cultures believe that it helps them learn and develop skills that they can then apply to their community and that will prepare them to cope as a grown-up. However, this is not the message that families or cultures should be giving to the future of society.

Ethics plays a huge role in child labour. It becomes unethical when children are unfairly paid or are not paid at all and are forced to work unwillingly without consent. Not only is it unethical but it goes against nearly all the rights that a child has. Children who are victims of child labour have their basic rights to quality education, play, rest and a clean and safe environment taken away from them. UNICEF goes on to say that ‘Child labourers often work between 12-16 hours per day in conditions that are unpleasant, unclean and unsafe in a wide range of industries like construction, agriculture, domestic work/services and manufacturing. This goes against Articles 24, 28, 31, 32 and 36 of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Even though many laws have been made to abolish child labour, it does not stop employers and companies like Nike, Nestle and Adidas, and countries like Chad, India and Myanmar from using children as a form of “cheap” labour. Poverty is one of the main factors that contributes to child labour.

Since the mind of a child is still growing and learning new things, they are gullible and very vulnerable. Child labour can have long term effects on a child’s mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, moral and social health/wellbeing. Children that work in manufacturing and agriculture are vulnerable to explosive gases, loud noises, sharp tools, heavy lifting and harmful poisons and pesticides, putting them at risk of injuries, poisoning, hearing and vision loss, lung diseases and joint problems. Not only do child labourers have to deal with the physical consequences but the mental as well, including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The International Labour Organisation (ILO) ‘Estimates that worldwide an average of 22,000 children die each year from work-related accidents as a result of child labour.’ The pressure that child labour puts on children forces them to mature much faster than any normal child would and because of this, they lose their childhood. Children are the generation of the future and should be getting an education that will help them achieve their dreams and goals. However, child labour denies them of reaching their full potential and developing new improved skills that could possibly help developing countries have better standards of living.

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Child labour has been in action for 200-250 years and should not be ignored any longer. It is ethically wrong and it violates nearly all the rights that a child has, it affects children psychologically and many cultures believe that child labour is a good way for children to learn skills in order to be ready for adulthood. Now is the time to criminalise all forms of child labour and protect generations for many years to come. So next time when you’re buying products, think about where they come from and who could’ve made them. We can tackle child labour by raising awareness of the conditions that victims around the world live in, educate them and other children on their basic human rights, reduce poverty to stop the cycle continuing and making stricter regulations around child labour.

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