Child Labour: The Society’s Pearl

Sadly, almost everything around us is the product of child labor or has benefitted from it in some way or anothe

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It seems hypocritical of me as the writer to even be talking about this subject as I write it on a laptop with the help of my phone and earphones, all created using metals and minerals mined by children in Ghana, wearing clothes from H&M that were sewed by the hands of an eleven-year-old Bangladeshi kid, with a face full of makeup with mica as the main ingredient, mined by the exploited youth of Madagascar. Sadly, almost everything around us is the product of child labor or has benefitted from it in some way or another.

The world saw a great improvement towards an ideal society for the past twenty years as the number of victims of child labor had significantly decreased. If only the statistics showed a straight decline.

In the past 4 years, the number of children forced into the workplace has increased by 8.4 million. That puts the number to 160 million children in 2021. It’s gut-wrenching to imagine 160 million children working their lives away for a few cents every day. Instead of being outside playing soccer with their friends, they’re toiling away in sweatshops making soccer balls for brands like Nike and Adidas, instead of going out with their parents to buy cute clothes, their parents have to send them to work and break their hands making clothes for H&M and GAP.

With the pandemic going on, the UN predicts that 9 million children will be forced to end the labor force by the end of 2022 and could even rise to 46 million if no change occurs. Families below the poverty line are desperate to make ends meet, and big companies promise them a living wage, shelter, and education for their children to work for them. This leads to parents sending their sons to the mines and their daughters to the sweatshops, all because they were tricked by liars and their false promises.

If you were to ask people whether they are for or against child labor, the majority will choose against it; but actions really do speak louder than words. There is a reason for such a spike in child labor in recent years and the main culprit is fast fashion and new technology. Everyone wants new clothes but for dirt, cheap prices and everyone wants the latest gadgets, no matter if the cost is blood. It is no use pleading ignorance anymore, it’s 2021. Everyone knows how companies can afford to sell a massive amount of clothes for a few dollars each because the child making them gets paid next to nothing. People know precious metals don’t just pop out of nowhere, they have to be mined from extremely dangerous areas underground, and who better to hire as miners than ones who are too afraid to complain, who won’t argue about being paid in peanuts, who are young enough to manipulate? When the world knows just how their luxuries are produced and are still fine with purchasing them, is it still true for them to say they are against child labor?

There are countries where child labor has seen a significant decrease, specifically Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. If someone was asked to look at these 3 nations and notice a common factor between them, the first thing that would pop up is they are predominantly white. It seems that is why such a decline has been seen in these countries because the face of innocence has fair skin, light hair, and big blue eyes. Meanwhile, the countries where companies use the most amount of child labor include Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; because they know the laws are more lenient and not as many voices will rise up for them. One could look at statistics and argue that child labor never saw a decline, it just saw a new face; instead of a small chubby white child with a light in their eyes, it’s a young brown child that looks like a bag of bones.

As consumers, it is our responsibility to put our dollars to good use. Instead of buying new clothes from outlet stores whenever we get a paycheck, it is ethical to instead buy clothes from thrift stores or to do research on the clothing brands we buy from. Instead of running to the malls whenever the latest phone or laptop is revealed, use the one you have for as long as possible, even if the people around you think you just can’t afford one. As a global community, it is up to us to make a change for the children in need. We have the ability to vote, to protest, to donate, to help.

No matter what laws a country legislates, companies will find loopholes to get their hands on a nation’s children. They will do whatever it takes to stop strict laws from being put in place; even if it means murdering children who want to make a difference. We need to have the same mindset on child labor as Iqbal Masih; a 12-year-old boy who dreamt of a world free of such slavery. He escaped literal chains of child labor at the age of 10, after being forced to work there for 6 years. Such was the influence he had created that he was assassinated while cycling with friends by the very people who had him chained. He sacrificed his life for every cause, he fought for it with all his might, and he was murdered while playing outside as a child. His story should inspire us all to create real change, to send these children to school instead of forcing them to work. In the words of the great Iqbal Masih, “children should have pens in their hands, not tools.”

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