Did you know that according to the China Labour Bulletin, in 2000, there were approximately 11,575,000 children at work between the ages of 10 to 14 in China? This violates article 32 of the Convention of Rights of The Child, which states, “You have the right to protection from work that harms you, and is bad for your health and prevents you from receiving an education. If you work, you have the right to be safe and paid fairly.” Even though the minimum age for work in China is 16, many children are involved in child labor before that. In fact, some children work in hazardous fields, where they are vulnerable to injuries and other torments. Child labor in China is a significant problem that needs to be taken into consideration. The government has essential decisions to make, and the NGOs and trade unions need to start focusing on collecting stronger statistics in order to persuade the government to take actions. Private individuals also have to play their own roles in eliminating this problem from the society.
Clearly, there are several causes that lead to child labor. The most obvious cause is shortage of money or lack of access to adequate resources. Due to poverty, some children are forced into work, while others work to improve their family’s living conditions. For a child’s income hugely contributes to the family’s total expenses. Unfortunately, sometimes they use children as a source of income. Another reason that leads to child labor is insufficient money for the school fee and school proximity. Some children feel under confident and unintelligent because of skipping school. This results in their urge for gaining an education in order to acquire high standard jobs in the future. Also, school proximity decreases the likelihood of attending school, since children have to travel long distances twice a day. Due to these two reasons, poor families ask their children to fund their own education, where many of them choose to do labor to pay off their tuition fee. A report from the USA Today explains, “China still spends just 2.7% of its gross domestic product on education, less than half of what the United Nations recommends.” Thirdly, at times schools generate work and study programs, in which, students are encouraged to work and study simultaneously. Sadly, sometimes schools greedily take advantage of this opportunity to gain more profit. As stated by the Human Rights Watch, “In 2004, Work and Study programs scheme for 12-16 year olds profited of more than $1.25 billion in a year”. This evidence shows how schools are using children for their own benefit. Lastly, when an industry or a factory is in need of a larger work force, it thrusts needy children into labor because they are cheaper to afford. An article in Human Rights in China by Andrea Morley suggests, “It is estimated that, of the 250 million children aged 5-14 years who are illegally employed worldwide, 61 percent are in Asia. As China has one of the largest Asian economies and has rapidly transformed its economy in recent years, the issue of child labor is of particular significance within the country”.
Accordingly, this can lead to numerous impacts, from trivial matters to devastating issues. In many cases, children are misused as a medium for cheap labor. They are paid with very low wages and are also treated like slaves, such as cruelly punishing them for errors and straining them to work for long periods. As a result, they are not provided with proper health care, which consequently, causes malnutrition in some situations. The Human Rights Watch observes, “In June 2007, 500 middle school children in the western territory of Sichuan were found actively in work for 14 hours in a factory in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, as part of their summer employment. The children were provided with inadequate food, and were forced to live in clustered dormitories. This led to health issues. Also, children were charged for production errors”. Another drawback for child laborers is the interference of education. In the future, these children become illiterates and remain behind, which takes away their opportunity of receiving high standard jobs. Hence, it results in a generation of poverty and child labor. As a final point, child exploitation and abuse is one of the most violent effects of child labor. Sometimes, children are not granted enough freedom to express themselves through their speech, hence, they are considered weak and helpless. Therefore, employers and other workers try to take control over them, which results in child abuse and exploitation. According to a research carried out by activist group The China Labor Watch, “It detailed a litany of alleged abuses, including employing workers as young as 14, at Samsung supplier HEG’s factory complex in Mainland China”. Evidently, children’s opinions are being neglected to great extents because of child labor.
While much remains to be done, the efforts of UNICEF are appreciated. In the year 2012, UNICEF donated unfortunate children 1.9 billion vaccination doses for 96 countries, 18.5 million bed nets for 39 countries, 371 million water purification tablets, and 15,000 recreation kits. However, child labor still remains a significant problem that needs to be eradicated. I believe that the Chinese Government can create economic policies so that there is equilibrium amongst the society. Also, they should provide more job opportunities, have free elementary education, and ensure that workers are being fairly paid. Most importantly, they should not ban work for children, as this can worsen their living conditions. Furthermore, China should allow more NGOs and trade unions that can monitor problems and find convincing statistics to persuade the government to take immediate actions. In addition, schools should demolish work and study programs in middle and junior high schools for they are not being positively executed. Private individuals can donate money and basic resources to NGOs or to people directly. As well as they can volunteer for work, protest, create petitions, write letters to authority, and inform the mass and social media, by posting or announcing it. The Solidarity Center, a NGO, suggests some solutions, “The immediate banning of manual labor used by schools to raise funds or supplement teachers’ pay, education of the most vulnerable groups (migrants, women, children) to raise awareness of forced labor and trafficking, and enforcement of laws already passed in China to ban forced labor”. What are your opinions about the solutions?