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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/26/12

America's Misconception and Ignorant Proliferation of Global, Child Labor

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As defined by the International Labour Organization , child labor is "work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity and that is harmful to physical and mental development." In essence, it is a practice that takes from children their childhood present and by proxy, their adult futures. Child Labor is a global plague indicative of a society which is decaying within the fog of moral and ethical loss, leaving children across the world to be forced into slave labor because their families are stricken with poverty and it is he only way for the whole to survive. The destiny these children would otherwise have in a prosperous existence like that which many of us Americans enjoy is all but a dream to them: They live an existence which very few here could ever imagine.


What is driving the demand; enabling this epidemic, are nations such as America, desiring their materialistic luxuries. In the drive to globally compete and provide affordable products to the market, the supply has become dependent upon cheap or even, slave labor which all too often equates to child labor.   Many Americans are either not aware that they are adding to this global scourge with their excess or simply choose to ignore responsibility for it in order to continue to enjoy the resultant products.  


In the rush to eliminate the ravages of child labor here in this nation, instead of sorting out those forms of it which are beneficial, many have, without consideration for the importance of some level work children should perform, the opportunity to learn responsibility and the value of hard work.   We have in our extremist nature, which appears to have come to define all American resolve, expanded the fight against child labor to where any work, including domestic chores and summer time jobs, have helped to reduce our children to mere couch potatoes and video game aficionados.   A child working certain small jobs or performing domestic chores is not the same as actual child labor. The latter is a vastly different animal.  


American Child Labor

Once upon a time in America, actual child labor was prevalent. As reported by scholastic.com , "by 1810, about 2,000,000 school-age children were working 50- to 70-hour weeks. Most of them came from poor families. When parents could not support their children, they sometimes turned them over to a mill or factory owner. One glass factory in Massachusetts was fenced with barbed wire "to keep the young imps inside."   The popular book written by Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, told the tale of a child labor system in the 1800's in England but carried its message here, to America and resounded with many who felt the practice brutal to American children.


Thanks to the efforts of many conscientious people in this Nation, illegal forms of child labor practices have been all but alleviated. The key word in this though, is "illegal". More exactly, "forced, commercial child labor" should be used instead to distinguish between the normal and abnormal forms of it.   A child working a part time job is not necessarily a bad thing, but when "forced" into labor only for the sake of profit for a commercial entity and kept there without relief or reprise, the issue takes on a different dimension.  


As Americans will often do, the line between these two extremes has been somewhat blurred and the results which mostly stem from fear of legal action, has taken from some children the ability to work for extra money or even, to learn responsibility of work. The rush to be righteous in this anti-labor endeavor may be taking from some children opportunity rather than saving them from harsh labor practices. In Nebraska for example, as reported by Journal Star ,


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Steven Forrest is a Project Architect living in St. Petersburg, Florida. Currently, he is working to implement Green Building initiatives in several communities across Florida. Given the current situation in America and the continued (more...)
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