Child Labour Essay

Child Labour Essay


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The International labour Organization (2012) defines child labour as the practice of engaging children in any work that deprives them their childhood rights, interferes with their education and that is harmful to their physical and mental well being. This is when children are being enslaved, separated from their loved ones, involved in heavy menial work, exposed to serious illnesses or left to fend for themselves on the streets of big cities. Many international organizations have termed child labour as an exploitative act that affects children both psychologically and socially. The major aim for the creation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) was to abolish child labour which had become a major issue globally calling for immediate attention (ILO, 2011).

Child labour has been in force for a long time in history. Many children aged 5-14 years before 1940, worked in Europe, the United States and various European working powers. They worked on plantations, factories, mining, and home-based assembly. Developing countries have high incidences of child labour due to high poverty and poor schooling. In the year 2010, sub Saharan Africa was the leading with highest incidences of child labour, where several African nations witnessed over 50% of children aged 5-14 working (Bequele & Boyden, 1988). In rural settings and informal urban economies most children are employed by their parents in their plantations as a source of cheap labour (Cigno & Rosati, 2002). Khan, (1980) points out that poverty and lack of school fees are the major cause of child labour in the rural areas and informal urban areas. In India, the national census of 2008 estimated the total number of children aged between 5-14 years at 12.6 million out of 253 million children in the age group (Census, 2008). A nationwide survey done between 2009-2010 found child labour prevalence to have reduced to 4.98 million compared to the previous years. UNICEF estimates that India has the highest number of laborers under the age of 14 years because of its large population, while sub- saharan African countries have the highest percentage of child labour cases. According to the International Labor Organization agriculture and other activities related has the largest percentage of children working there globally (ILO,2011), while United Nation’s Food and organization also concurs that an estimate of 70% of child labour is practiced in agriculture and other related activities (UN, 2006).

Effects of child labour

The major effect of child labour is the interruption of a child’s education and cognitive development. Those children working full time, who do not attend school at all, are prevented from developing the necessary cognitive skills which are very important for any growing child. On the other hand these children will continue working for the rest of their lives without an opportunity to improve their life standard and a better pay due to lack of education. Forensic psychology dictates that those who are subjected to poverty all throughout their lives are more likely to break the law of a given country later in life. Working can also affect a child’s social development because the child does not find time to go and play with his age mate or even learn to interact with people properly because the child spends his time working. Teenagers who spend their time working are at a higher risk of developing problematic social behaviors such as use of drugs and aggression.

Lastly, working children experience isolation and depression which prevent them from continuing to develop healthy emotion as they are growing and this may lead to many physical challenges. They risk developing delays as a result of poor working conditions and taking up physical tasks that are too difficult for them to handle.


Labelling theory is one of the theories that can be able to explain the effect of child labour on working children. This theory tries to identify who applies what labels to whom, why they do so and the result of the labels (Macionis and Linda, 2011). The children who engage in child labour usually do so because of their social and economic status in the society end up being labeled in the society. They come from families of low income where children are forced to work in order to supplement their family income. This takes more of their time which could have been used to do activities that the community perceives to be right. By so doing the society perceive these children as labels or social deviants (Sumner, 1994). Those families whose children engage in child labour are looked down upon in the society and these consequently affect their self esteem and their moral authority in the community. They always feel disadvantaged and as a result withdraw from the society’s social cycle as a reaction to the society perception. According to Goffman, (1984) children who are labeled in the society becomes psychologically affected and as such resort to engage in criminal activities as a way of protesting the society’s perception towards them. The theorist will suggest that the community learn to accept this children without labeling them because it is not by will that they decide to engage in child labour. This will assist them to develop a high self esteem at the same time they will accept themselves therefore reducing social unacceptable behaviours

Anomie Theory

Gerber and Linda, (2010) defines Anomie theory as a theory that looks at a person’s ability to access resources in the society. They describe it as a condition in which the society provides little or no more moral guidance to individuals and as a result breaks down the social bonds in an individual in the community. Children engaged in child labour earlier in life break the bond of the society and start doing their own activities that will generate income since they perceive that their community or family is not doing enough to satisfy their personal desires. In their quest to change the scenario these children feel rejected and develop low self esteem which later affect their social behavior in the society. Anomie theory explains that not all people or families have means to create wealth based on their background and resources available to them. For instance, families of children who engage in child labour have limited means of creating wealth or earning a living in the society and as such they feel disadvantaged and get frustrated in the process result to socially unacceptable ways. Merton would have suggested that the society need to change the way it operates in order to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, by doing so many people will be in a position to take their children to school instead of allowing them to work as a means of supplementing their income. This will significantly reduce the cases of child labour in the society.

Control theory

This theory was developed by Walter Reckless and it explains how intrinsic and extrinsic controls affect deviance in the society. It states that people act as they do because of controls that are either internal or external. Internal controls for instance include; values, morality, integrity, conscience and the desire to do good may restrain individuals from engaging in deviant behaviours while extrinsic controls such as the law, police, religion and family may also control the behavior that people exhibit in the community. Children who engage in child labour do not have time to socialize positively especially during their childhood in order to develop proper intrinsic controls as well as understand extrinsic controls which modify their behavior as such they end up being deviants in the society and may also be involved in criminal activities and other activities prohibited by law ( Inderbitzin & Bates, 2013). In order to solve this problem of child labour Walter Reckless should recommend emphasis on intrinsic controls that promote best values in children thereby restraining them from engaging in deviant behaviors. Similarly, extrinsic controls should be put in place especially the laws that will regulate parents from engaging their children in child labour instead educate them.

Best theory

The best theory that describes why children engage in child labour is the Anomie theory which explains the gap between socially acceptable goals for people in the society and the means to achieve those goals (Messner, Lawrence & Peter, 2002). This theory is the best because parents or guardians will not allow their children to engage in child labour if they are financially stable. Therefore they have been forced by circumstances especially lack of enough resources to work in order to earn a living. These children are forced by circumstances that are beyond their control because of the social gap that is between the rich and the poor in the society. Anomie theory critically looks at a person’s ability to access resources and create wealth for themselves using the resources available. Children who engage in child labour have limited means to create wealth within their family and as such result to engage in child labor and other unacceptable social norms (Merton, 1968)


Unlike the Anomie theory, Control theory and Labelling theory have one thing in common in that both of them can be regulated or controlled. Control theory for example explains how intrinsic and extrinsic controls influence the behavior of an individual in the society. If the society emphasizes on good moral values and integrity, it will be easier to control deviant behavior in individuals. Enforcing extrinsic controls may also reduce child labour in the society to a great extent. It also focuses only on social control, socialization and behavior (Levine, 1996). On the other hand labeling theory comes as a result of the society’s perception towards an individual and it only applies to a small number of individuals. This can be controlled if the society changes its perception and learns to value or individuals equally (Macionis et al, 2011)

Suggestion on how to fix child labour

Child labour problem can be fixed through enforcing government policies aimed at making basic education compulsory to all children below the age of 18 years. This will ensure that children spend most of their time in school thereby reducing the cases of children engaged in child labour. The government can achieve this by enforcing free education to all children regardless of their background. UNICEF for instance has embarked on 29 nation initiative to combat child labour with the aim of advocating for compulsory basic education for all children globally without discrimination. Secondly, International Labour Organization need to come up with strong measures that criminalize any employer or parent who allows underage children to engage in the labour market. This will ensure that children below the age of 18years will not be employed to engage in any activity which denies them their right to education. Lastly, children engaged in child labour need to be counseled to avoid them developing low self esteem and engaging in socially unacceptable activities. For instance, in India a number of innovative schemes have been initiated to uplift the children. Voluntary agencies are financed to assist those who are taking welfare projects for working children in order to protect their rights.


Child labor affect the child both psychologically, economically and socially and as such must be discouraged by all means in the society. While doing the research I have noted that child labor may have long term consequences despite being seen as economically beneficial. For instance, it has been noted that children who engage in child labour develop socially unacceptable behavior later in life and maturity of them do not succeed either with the money they make. This has greatly changed my perception towards this problem since I thought the earlier the children start earning a living the better their future becomes. I feel that the government, ILO and other NGOs need to come and stop this vice in the society in order to safeguard the future of these innocent children.

References: Child Labour Essay

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