Child Labor is rampant in developing nations. It is the practice of engaging children (under a specific age) in economic activity. It is a curse that needs to be eliminated from the society. Is the United States free from this evil? In this essay, we will discuss about child labor in USA – the past and present status.
As I mentioned before, child labor is rampant in developing countries. South-East Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka), African nations, Eastern-European nations – these areas have highest recorded instanced of child labor cases.
Child labor is bad for the society. First of all, it exploits children, who are not mature and developed (both physically and mentally). It snatches away their rights (right to attend school, right to enjoy childhood etc).
Child labor, in many cases, is forced. Helpless children are forced to work by adults. In other cases, it is bad financial state of the family that pushes children towards child labor.
While child labor is rampant across different parts of the world, the USA is relatively clean! Yes, we have strong child labor laws in United States.
There are Federal and State laws to ensure the safety of children against forced labor and exploitation. The FLSA is the Federal Law that prevents child labor in USA. It stands for Fair Labor Standards Act.
This law lays down certain guidelines and rules that must be followed while hiring children. According to this law, children below the age of 14 may not be employed for non-agricultural jobs. Children between 14 to 16 years of age may be employed in allowed areas for limited hours.
Children between 16 and 18 years of age may be employed for unlimited hours in non-hazardous work environment. But there are flaws and loopholes within these laws.
The agriculture sector is the prime example. This sector is known to exploit children in such a way that no rules are broken in the process.
Tobacco cultivation farms in North America are known to employ children. They are made to work in hazardous surroundings for long hours.
Technically, no law is broken. The perpetrators are knowledgeable about the law and they utilize the flaws that exist within the law!
As a result, we still have children working on tobacco fields in USA! They work for long hours, under hazardous conditions, for very low remuneration.
Children are paid considerably low wages than adults. They are not too matured to demand higher pay for the work they do. The work prevents them from attending school. Many of them are full-time workers. Some of them are part-time workers.
The work also brings with it a set of health issues. Children working in tobacco fields are known to suffer from frequent headaches, nausea and weakness. They don’t even have access to decent medical facilities to seek help.
How to avoid this problem, you may ask. In order to solve this problem, we must tackle two fronts – the law and economic condition of families in the affected areas.
It is time to revise the law. The child labor laws of USA is strong and sound. But few cracks do exist in the armor. The rules overseeing the agriculture sector are not too strict. This is what leads to cases of child labor in USA.
It is time to revise child labor laws associated with the agriculture sector of USA. The next step is to improve the financial condition of families residing in the affected areas. If we look closely, it is easy to identify a pattern here. Majority of children who work in tobacco farms belong to immigrant community.
If we provide them better opportunities, they won’t have to send their children to work in the fields for paltry sums!