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The Problem With Western Perspectives On Child Labour In Third World Countries

1355 words - 6 pages

The problem with viewing child labour in third world countries
Exploitative labour has been a problem worthy of concern since the industrial revolution, more so with the ongoing human rights and equality movements around the world. Some may argue that it is the equivalent of modern slavery, others such as Karl Marx attributes exploitation as a by-product of capitalism. Exploitative labour is not slavery but it does contain some qualities thereof, “[being] given or sold into domestic work/as a means of debt repayment” (Blaghrough and Glynn 52) or the “forced appropriation of the unpaid labour of workers” as stated by Marx (Lapon). These definitions are by no means exhaustive but they do highlight a very common characteristic of exploitative work, specifically the unfairness of gain that workers receive in comparison to the gains of the employer. This makes it extremely unlikely that exploited workers will improve their socioeconomic prospects. Although in recent times International Institutions, which are often established under Western standards, tried to remedy this global predicament, many attempts were ineffective particularly in the context of child labour (Blaghrough and Glynn 51). However these attempts does not take into the consideration of circumstances in regions in which the child labourer does gain a respectable amount of benefits and even “spoke of enjoying working” (Nieuwenhuys 213). This raises the question of to what extent should we eliminate child exploitative labour and by what means. It is fairly understood in the West that child exploitative work is morally unacceptable and socioeconomically crippling but in developing regions of the world could it be argued that it is acceptable to a degree, under certain circumstances? New standards of preventing exploitation must take into account of what constitutes child labour, its socioeconomic impact and its moral implications.
The history of working children has been a documented problem since the preindustrial era and is historically characterised mostly by factory work undertaken by migrant children (Horrel and Humphries 486-487) from agricultural families. Although there is no universally binding definition of child labour, most existing definitions often features elements such as long work hours and inhumane conditions and in the long term, work that impairs health and development (Howell and Humphries 486; Nieuwenhuys 214). Unfortunately even with these common traits, they are fairly general and prone to different interpretations due to the difficulty in quantification. This is perhaps one of the problems with understanding child labour, being that the lack of a universal definition suggests different circumstances of exploitation which may require diverse methods of addressing. Another detail worth noting is that only work for profiteering establishments is considered child labour. Working under similar conditions, for instance farms and mills cannot be tracked and thus does...

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