Child labourers coming out of a dye factory, Dhaka, Bangladesh
) is theemploymentof childrenunder anage determined by law or custom. This practice is consideredexploitative by many countries and international organizations. Child labor was notseen as a problem throughout most of history, only becoming a disputedissue with the beginning of universalschoolingand the concepts of laborersandchildren's rights.Child labor can include factory work, mining or quarrying, agriculture,helping in the parents' business, having one's ownsmall business(for example selling food), or doing odd jobs. Some children work as guidesfor tourists, sometimes combined with bringing in business for shops andrestaurants(where they may also work as waiters). Other children areforced to do tedious and repetitive jobs such as assembling boxes, or polishing shoes. However, rather than in factories andsweatshops, mostchild labor occurs in the informal sector, "selling on the street, at work inagricultureor hidden away in houses— far from the reach of officiallabor inspectors and from media scrutiny."The most controversial forms of work include themilitary use of childrenas well aschild prostitution. Less controversial, and often legal with somerestrictions, are work aschild actorsandchild singers, as well asagricultural work outside of the school year (seasonal work).
In many countries, it is considered inappropriate or exploitative if a child below a certain age works, excludinghousehold choresor schoolwork .Anemployer is often not allowed to hire a child below a certain age. Thisminimum age depends on the country; in theUnited States, the minimumage to work in an establishment without parents' consent and restrictionsis age 16.Many children as young as four are employed in production factorieswith dangerous, and often fatal, working conditions. Based on thisunderstanding of the use of children as laborers, it is now considered bywealthy countries to be ahuman rightsviolation, and is outlawed, whilesome poorer countries may allow or tolerate it.Poor families often rely on the labors of their children for survival, andsometimes it is their only source of income. This type of work is oftenhidden away because it is not in theindustrialsector. Child labor isemployed in subsistence agriculture, in the household, or in the urbaninformal sector. In order to benefit children, child labor prohibition has toaddress the dual challenge of providing them with both short-termincome and long-term prospects. Someyouth rightsgroups, however, feelthat prohibiting work below a certain age violates human rights, reducingchildren's options and leaving them subject to the whims of those withmoney. The reasons a child would consent or want to work may varygreatly. A child may consent to work if, for example, the earnings areattractive or if the child hates school, but such consent may not beinformed consent. The workplace may still be an undesirable situation for a child or adult in the long run.The United States also has extensivechild labor laws. In the 1990s everycountry in the world except for Somaliaand the United States became asignatory to theConvention on the Rights of the Child, or CRC. The CRC provides the strongest, most consistent international legal language prohibiting illegal child labor.
Child laborer, Newberry, South Carolina, 1908In theWest, during theIndustrial Revolution, use of child labor wascommonplace, often in factories, but on the decline. InEnglandandScotlandin 1788, about two-thirds of the workers in the new water- powered textile factories were children. Subsequently, largely due to thecampaigning of Lord Shaftesbury, a series of Factory Actswere passed torestrict gradually the hours that children were allowed to work, and toimprove safety.Karl Marxargued that the industrial revolution increased hardship for children. HistorianE. P. Thompsonnotes in
that child labor was not new, and had been "an intrinsic part of the agricultural and industrial economy before 1780"; however heargues that "there was a drastic increase in the intensity of exploitation of child labour between 1780 and 1840, and every historian acquainted withthe sources knows this is so. This was true in themines, both ininefficient small-scale pits where the roadways were sometimes sonarrow that children could not easily pass through them; where - as thecoal face drew further away from the shaft - children were in demand as'hurreyers' and to operate the ventilation ports. In themills, the child and juvenile labour force grew yearly; and in several of the out-worker or 'dishonourable' trades the hours of labour became longer and work moreintense."Other historians have disagreed with this verdict.ObjectivisteconomichistorianRobert Hessensays
claims of increased misery...[are] based on ignorance of how squalid life actually had been earlier. Before children beganearning money working in factories