Child Labor Literature Review

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Reviewing roughly 13 sources, this paper explains the effects of child labor affecting 250 million kids globally, child labor is an endangerment to society (Elena,2014). This paper exposes the reality of why kids may actively participate. Those who do participate in the work force may even be working to do the one thing they can do to end generational poverty, by educating themselves. Throughout the review I speak about the importance of education and the impact of child labor on young girls.

Literature Review

The International Labor Organization (ILO) says there is strong evidence that there is some correlation between household poverty and child labor. The ILO speaks about how at least 250 million children within the ages of 5-14 are considered participants in child labor, of this about 120 million of them work full-time (Elena,2014). Of these 250 million, 61% are in Asia, 32% in Africa and 7% are in Latin America (Sharma and Bhatia,2009). Samonova Elena gives the example of a study by Edmons and Pavchnick who found that of rural Vietnam claims that 75% of cross-country variations of child labour can be explained by income variations and conclude that child labour is a symptom of poverty. Poverty, I must say here, is the root cause for many social ills, (Ndienla,2006). Poverty is one of the top reasons why children work in inappropriate jobs for their age. More than one-fourth of the world's people live in extreme poverty rely on their children to help provide for some of the most basic necessities (U.N. statistics ,2005). While some work to assist their families, others work to pay for their own education. In 2006, approximately 75 million kids were not in school, limiting future opportunities for the children and their communities.

In Cameroon, children who don't go to school, like orphans for example, work full-time in places like cocoa and coffee plantations (Ndinela,2006). If children do not have the opportunity to attend school, they will never escape poverty and never achieve upward social mobility. Education and Poverty are not the only reasons for child labor; Family businesses play a factor as well. Large number of children are unpaid workers in their own family businesses, many of which depend on their family's labor to survive. There are many national laws and regulations as well as international laws, like convention No. 138, which makes exceptions in some cases (ILO). Most of these family run businesses are farms, or informal sector workshops which still expose children to several hazardous conditions. Unhealthy family life and economic deprivation are two other leading factors for child labor. Families that battle with financial duties, cannot cope with the persistent demand for their children, and neglect to even provide adequate nutrition. Children with families that are socially disadvantaged, morally bankrupt, or may have family members with alcoholism are more likely to end up on the streets whether it be temporary or permanent. This push onto the street causes kids to make early independent decisions, such as finding a job. Sharma and Bhatia continue to speak about the researchers and practitioners who agree that poverty is the main cause of child labor, and that it increases the probability of survival of a family. The contributions made by these children could be used as a mean of minimizing the impact of job loss, failed harvest and other shocks on the family's income stream (Sharma and Bhatia,2009).

On the microeconomic level of things, child labor is necessary for a family to afford even the key essentials. With children working full-time jobs it has a negative impact on school attendance. Lower attendance in school could create a continues cycle of generational poverty, children should attend school, acquire human capital, become more productive adults, earn higher wages, increase the welfare of their own families and escape the need for their offspring to work(Galli,2001). Sometimes this is not an ideal situation there is a period of transition to take place. Under this assumption of a deduction in child labour both in the informal and formal economy, can leads to a demand for more schooling, which is not automatic (Galli,2001). This would mean that schools need to be available, accessible and affordable for all families. Galli continues speaking that more schooling means higher human capital, in turn leading to higher a more efficient labor market and a higher productivity.

This is an issue for most developing countries, it would also be necessary for the states to make sure schools are in good quality, and the curriculum would need to be ideal for attendees. Schools would also need to be a safe and healthy place to learn, this becomes an issue in some places such as South Africa where there have been reports by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) speaking about sexual abuse by teachers and other students. Several studies have shown that in many countries children attend school and also work; part-time child labor can still be harmful for human capital accumulation since it does compete with other human capital that may be considered developing activities such as studying at home(Galli,2001). On the macroeconomic side child labor is the cause for negative long run growth and social development through a reduced human capital accumulation. States could increase their capital by educating their labor force, through specialization, improving infrastructures and creating competition (Galli,2001).

Gender is one of the key factors on whether a child participates in the work force or not. When this standard definition of work is applied, child labor appears much more common among boys than among girls in most countries. With looking further into the statistics, it shows that this is not always the case. As an example, the 1991 census of India reports that 56.6% of 5 to 14-year-old boys were in school, 5.2% were participants in economic activities, 0.5% were marginal workers, and 37.7% were nowhere. The statistics for girls at the same age were 44.2% in schools, 3.4% participating in the labor force, 1.7% marginal workers and 50.7% nowhere. So more than a third of boys, and one out of two Indian girls did not attend school in 1991; at the same time, they were not considered as child laborers. Galli expresses the definition of employment leaves out work that may be happening in one's home that does not lead to the production of commercial goods. If housework where included in this definition of child labor, there would be a significant increase in the work activity among young girls.

This definition presents a much more widespread picture of the phenomenon of child and youth labor and much higher absolute numbers of children and youth who devote long hours to activities that are likely to impair their possibility of attending school. Young girls tend to start working at a much younger age than boys do as well because of traditional gender roles. Many girls not given the opportunity to gain an education, some girls have no other option than to take on responsibilities of housework, school and managing a job to help support their family. Child labor: Are girls affected differently from boys? gives the example that in Egypt girls are expected to do the majority of work in the home, in the Dominican Republic are compelled to look after their siblings as well as maintain a household. Young women being educated will be seen as a poor investment in some cultures, since girls will be married off and leave home.


The Human Rights Watch reports that child labor rates are dropping, but not fast enough. From the year, 2000 up until 2012 child labor has fallen from 250 million to 168 million. The year 2025 is the year that the ILO has set to end child labor globally, which is a part of the Sustainable Development Goals, but it is struggling to meet their demands because of the slow rates. The first step to ending child labor is increase attendance in schools, as attendance increases child labor will decrease. Since 2000, governments have increased the number of children in school by 110 million, making it much less likely those children will end up in the labor market. The next step would be to implement a strong set of effective laws and enforce penalties for people continuing to exploit children. Becker continues to explain that financial assistance is another route out of child labor. Becker suggests that cash transfer programs could be a major benefit; this would provide poor families with a guaranteed monthly income and relieve the pressure parents may feel to send their child to work. In Morocco, for example, payments of just US$7 a month per child helped reduce child labor rates by one third. Ending child labor will not only be protecting children and their families, but will also strengthen communities and build economies.


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Child labor Literature Review. (2019, Apr 15). Retrieved July 15, 2024 , from

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