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child labour

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Does child labour exist today?

In Britain children do not have full time jobs however Child labour does exist today but it happens worldwide across in many different types of countries and cultures.

The United Nations international labour organization estimates that more than 250 million boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 14 are working in developing countries, and about 1 out of every 4 children in the world. 50-60 million children between the ages of five and eleven work are left to work under hazardous conditions.

Child labour is found throughout the developing world.

In Asia- 61% of children are working, in Africa -32% and in Latin America 7%. Like in the industrial revolution children are forced to work today because of family poverty and lack of education.

The worst forms of child labour are hazardous and exploitative. Work is carried out in slave like conditions and children suffer from a variety of illnesses and conditions. A United Nations report provided us with example of this: -

  • In Malaysia, children may work up to 17-hour days on rubber plantations, exposed to insect and snake bits.
  • In the United Republic of Tanzania, they pick coffee, inhaling pesticides.
  • In Morocco, they hunch at looms for long hours and little pay, knotting the strands of carpet for export.
  • In the United States, children are in exploited in garment industries and sweat shops.

Today two thirds of children working labour in agriculture, with the rest in manufacturing/retail trade, restaurants and hotels, and a variety of services, including working as servants in wealthy households. At best, these children work for long hours with little pay and therefore are unable to go to school and develop skills that might eventually escape their lives from poverty.

However, simply banning all child labour if it was possible might be counter productive and have a negative affect. Child labour for example is a better alternative to starvation. Today the challenge is not just to end child labour, but also move children from work to education and to ensure they are properly provided for during their school years. Child labour must be fought in a way that does not cause harm to the children.  


As a result of the poverty and exploitation of child labour many charities have been set up to protect children. However the children’s charity Barnardo’s is perhaps the most famous as it was set up as a result of the industrial revolution. Their aim was to tackle with the ever-increasing problem of child Labour and give hope to many needy children.

The London in which Thomas Barnardo arrived in 1866 was a city struggling to cope with the effects of the Industrial Revolution. The population had dramatically increased and much of this increase was concentrated in the East End, where overcrowding, bad housing, unemployment, poverty and disease were rife. A few months after Thomas Barnardo came to London an outbreak of cholera swept through the East End killing more than 3,000 people and leaving families destitute. Thousands of children slept on the streets and many others were forced to beg after being maimed in factories.

In 1867, Thomas Barnardo set up a ragged school in the East End, where poor children could get a basic education. One evening a boy at the Mission, Jim Jarvis, took Thomas Barnardo around the East End showing him children sleeping on roofs and in gutters. The encounter so affected him he decided to devote himself to helping destitute children.

In 1870, Barnardo opened his first home for boys in Stepney Causeway. He regularly went out at night into the slum district to find destitute boys. One evening, an 11-year old boy, John Somers (nicknamed 'Carrots') was turned away because the shelter was full. He was found dead two days later from malnutrition and exposure and from then on the home bore the sign 'No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission'.

Victorians saw poverty as shameful as a result of laziness or vice. However Thomas Barnardo accepted all children and stressed that every child deserved the best possible start in life, whatever their background - a philosophy that still inspires the charity today.








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