How Are Children Exploited Today?

Recent global estimates show that there are approximately 168 million children from ages 5 to 17 in child labor according to the International Labour Organization(ILO) and World Bank. There are millions of children globally that are trapped in child labour with little hope for a way out. Because of child labor laws have been passed to restrict and advocate for these children.

Child labor is awful, but not all forms of children working are considered child labour. There are kids who work to earn pocket money, help around the home, or at a family business which does not harm them in any way. There are many forms of child labour and exploitation, and more often than not they go hand in hand. UNICEF states that child labor has a variety of sectors including agricultural, manufacturing, quarrying/mining and domestic service. They also state that there are also many forms of child labour including, forced and bonded labour, child soldiering, commercial sexual exploitation, and usage by adults in criminal activities. These activities have long-term effects on these children from physical trauma such as broken bones, emotional trauma like low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety to psychological trauma such as post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). Exploitation of these children scar them, sometimes unimaginably.

Child labour always existed even in America and particularly during the Industrial Revolution (1820-70). At that time of technological advancement, factories and mines were being built and bodies were needed to work. These places had very dangerous working conditions in which the worst case scenarios of accidents could result in death. Even though the working condition were dangerous, children were preferred since they were more manageable and cheaper. Also, children worked in anything ranging from fieldwork to messengers under hazardous working conditions for for little pay. These conditions for working were horrid but also affected these kids for life.

In the early 20th century child labor began to decline as child labor reform movements began to arise demanding the government to regulate child labor. Organizations such as the National Consumers League in 1899 and the National Child Labor Committee in 1904 were founded which had the shared goal of fighting child labor. Due to the efforts of reformers, unions, and social workers, in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson passed the Keating-Owen Act which banned child labor from being sold in interstate commerce. But, the Supreme Court removed the act claiming that it was unconstitutional just two years later. As many restrictive child labor laws were passed with loops, in 1916 and 1918, Congress passed federal child labor law but the Supreme Court again declared it unconstitutional. Then in the 1930s there was progress. In 1936, the Public Contracts Act was passed which required boys to be the at least 16 and girls 18 to under companies that supply goods legally under a federal contract. And, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 required children to be at least 14 years old to work outside of school and 16 years old to work during school hours. Also, the act required the minimum age of 16 to work during school hours and 18 for dangerous positions in interstate commerce that is not agricultural.

Child labor is a violation of any child’s basic rights and must be reformed on a global scale. It’s a constant battle and we must put more effort into saving these kid’s childhoods. Even if it may seem impossible every little thing counts in protecting them.