Child labor, a major issue in the developing world, can be defined as work performed by a child under age 18 that is hazardous or harmful to his or her health and development and likely interferes with his or her education. According to the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF), approximately 150 million of the world's children aged five to fourteen years are engaged in child labor. Opponents of child labor argue that denying children their civil right to a full-time education by forcing them to work only serves to perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Supporters of children working agree that the exploitation of children is wrong but respond that in some cases, children are forced to work out of necessity and provide their families with much needed income.
Pro/Con and Essential Question
Yes. Child labor is an option for families in economic need.
No. Child labor is a violation of human rights.
"A self-respecting and self-supporting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor."--President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Child Labor: A Subject Rarely Discussed
"The United States, Britain, France, Sweden and others all rode to modernity on the backs of child laborers. The choice was simple: kids worked, or they went hungry. It wasn't a terribly rosy set of choices, but at least the choice was available. Anti-globalization activists are doing their damndest to make sure choice isn't available to those living in today's fledgling economies."--Radley Balko, freelance writer, Alexandria, VA
The Road from Serfdom