Child labour | A Curse for human rights

Child labour

Child labour is a live example of all that the poor and the deprived of this world stand for. When do children have to work?

There are two perspectives to it. The first is when their parents or guardians cannot afford to send them to school. Rather than letting them idle away their time, they are forced to work in small scale and cottage industries or in the fields in agrarian economies. This is more in the form of financially helping out their families with whatever they can earn.

The other is when they are abandoned – and there are millions of them around the world – by their parents and are forced to work or beg. In developed countries, shelter homes and similar facilities do exist but in a majority of third world nations, children are simply left to their fate.

Children are always the first to be affected when a natural calamity like draught strikes a country and they are forced to work to live. Remember the horrifying pictures from Somalia showing drought conditions and poor and impoverished children working in relief camps along with their parents? Child labour is one of the worst forms of human rights abuse and though many countries have officially banned it, this is still rampant because of poor implementation of rules.

In Australia, there are stringent regulations covering child labour. There are provisions for law breakers to be severely punished with fines and prison terms. Companies specialising in labour hire in Melbourne take steps to verify that all applicants for jobs, especially those fresh out of school have reached eligible age.

Child labour is human rights abuse because it destroys the life of a child, scarring it forever. This is one reason why children in trouble often prefer to take the easy way out and they are fully exploited in these circumstances. Child drug runners are very common and drug lords focus on this segment for their supply of carriers as children are usually above suspicion from law enforcing agencies. Child prostitution is another curse on the human race as young girls, some virtually just into their teens are physically and emotionally maimed for life. Poverty, coupled with child labour is often attributed to the exponential growth of crimes and criminal activities all over the world.

A recent report by the International Labour Organisation points out that, “it is estimated that 215 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 currently work under conditions that are considered illegal, hazardous, or extremely exploitative.” The breakup given is equally worrying – approximately 114 million of the total (53%) come from Asian and Pacific countries, 14 million (7%) in Latin American countries and 65 million (30%) are in sub-Saharan Africa. The rest of the 10% are spread out all over the world in pockets of poverty and exploitation.

Given this horrific situation of child labour and human rights abuse prevailing all over the world, it is time that all countries take steps to ban this practice. It cannot definitely be done overnight since the phenomenon is a volatile mix of poverty, economic deprivation and crime. But a start needs to be made and the time for it is NOW!