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Ethics/Child Labor

4.9 of 5.0 (5 reviews)

1551 words
Social Issues

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Today in Minot, ND when you got up, went outside to get the paper, and then sat down and read it as you were getting ready for work, did you ever stop to think how the paper got there. Probably a child delivered it to your door, and he or she gets up early every day before school and delivers it, no matter what the weather is like, seven days a weak, and at a minimal pay. But what kind of a response do most people have to this. They say, 'oh, its good for the kid to have a job and to earn a little spending money, or that, 'it builds character.' However they view it, they definitely don't see it as child labor. 2
In America this act would fall under the idea of child work, not child labor, and would still be considered O.K. by our standards. Child work is defined in that young children can do various types of jobs, because it can be good for them in terms of building character, responsibility, and a good work ethic. But child work must be done in the context of education, and not interfere with the childs development in the terms of activities, sports, and music. Now child labor can be defined as where children are put to work in jobs that have been done by, or could be done by, adults. Child labor is where the children are exploited and also is when they are worked in conditions that are hazardous. 1
Child labor is a problem throughout the world, and especially in developing countries. Child labor is most common in rural areas where the capacity to enforce minimum age requirements for schooling and work is lacking. The children work for many reasons, the most important being poverty and the pressure upon them to escape from those circumstances. Though the children are not well paid, they still serve as major contributors to family income in developing countries. Schooling problems also contribute to child labor, whether it be the inaccessibility of schools or the lack of quality education which forces parents to enter their children into more profitable pursuits. Traditional factors such as rigid cultural and social roles in certain countries further limits schooling and increases child labor. 3
Child labor is not necessarily a bad thing if it still allows for a full education and is not hazardous to the childs health. However, this is not usually the case. In fact, very rarely do you find children working under safe conditions, nor do they usually have adequate educational time. It is this exploitation of children that prevents them from ever becoming educated and from improving themselves economically. It also creates a cycle of injustice and poverty as well as benefitting those who endorse it. 4
Companies exploit children because they are also very helpless. Children are at a stage in life where they are supposed to be protected and are not capable to think or protect themselves from exploitation. Because of this helplessness, it is easy to extract work from them cheaply. This is in comparison the same reason that slave labor persisted in American history. The cheaper you can make something, the more profit you can make.
If nobody sticks up for the children, then nothing will be done about the problem. Parents that should stick up for their children, are usually unable to do so, because either they're stuck in poverty to, or they are unaware that their child is in need of help. Sometimes the parents feel that their child is better off with a company, so they sell them. Other times, the children may be kidnapped and the parents don't even know where they are. Governments are also unwilling, or unable to stop child labor because it often can be a large part of the countries economy, especially in third world countries. So the countries will turn a blind eye to the practice, that way the companies will stay.
Labor that is cheap is an easy way to make money, but it is not always best for the country as a whole. Child labor is one reason why third world countries stay third world countries. For most countries children are seen as the future. So with this in mind, child labor does nothing but destroy the future. By keeping the majority of the children out of school the country will never be able to develop to its full potential. That, along with a high mortality rate in children, and low life expectancy rate, ensures that the future of many countries will continue to decline. 5
In 1979, studies showed that more than 50 million children below the age of 16 were working in various jobs often under hazardous conditions. 6 Today ILO estimates that there are at least 73 million economically active children in the age group of 10-14, and that the probable number of child workers around the world may be in the 'hundreds of millions.' 7 It is likely that somewhere between 100-200 million children are being exploited. Remember of course that these are only estimated numbers since no real records are available, or kept on this practice, since it is illegal. The numbers may actually be a little higher or a little lower. Over 95% of these exploited children are found in developing countries. Asia has over 50% of the child laborers, with Africa having the highest percentage of its children working - every 1 in 3. In Latin America, 15-20% of the children work. 4
Although their are restrictions on child labor in most countries, many children do still work. One problem is that there is no international agreement defining child labor. So different minimum age work restrictions exist. Most would agree that a six year old is to young to work, but in some places a twelve year old working is perfectly legal. Another problem is that their are varying regulations based on the type of labor that is used, light work might be permitted but dangerous work would be restricted. Until there is global agreement between countries of what child labor is, there is little you can do legally. Ethically, it is also hard to debate, or say that something is wrong, if you don't hold the same standards. 3
My perspective on child labor is that its wrong by my standards. But if I was setting up a manufacturing plant in Bangladesh, deep down I think the management is aware, and I would be aware, that the potential of child labor being used to make its goods will be a reality. No matter what they say or what their policies are, child labor will likely still find its way into the product. In a country that is lenient on policing itself, and where child labor is just part of life it would be almost impossible to keep child labor from being used. My opinion is that the only reason people are moving businesses, to third world countries is to profit on cheap labor, and the reason it is so cheap, is because of child labor. To me its unrealistic that these businesses don't know what they are doing, and really, all that they care about is making a dollar. The saying, 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do,' means in this case that if child labor is acceptable in that culture than do it. When you do business, in another country you must play by their rules, and if you don't like it than maybe you shouldn't go there.
If child labor isn't acceptable to your business, or you are concerned about your companies image, you must tread carefully. If you did the right ethical thing in these countries, according to your standards, it would mean increasing their wages and benefits drastically, so that their kids wouldn't have to work, and could go to school. Which would make the economics of you even being there less favorable, and maybe even not worth being there. If you want to keep your wholesome good image and do the right ethical thing. Then weigh your risks carefully, because it might be wiser to stay where you are, since what little you gain might not be worth it. Sometimes only looking at your bottom line can be your downfall, and nearsighted. You should always think of what the long term effects could be. If you lose your image, you lose everything.
Our laws prohibit the importation of ivory, endangered species, and products from prison labor, but not products produced by child labor. We have failed to protect the children from exploitive and abusive labor and the problem continues to grow. So, how do we stop it? 8 Unfortunitly, a solution isn't easy to come by. But there are several worthwhile methods that could be used to combat child labor, and the most effective solution to the problem would be a combination of these. The world is a global marketplace, so every country should be aware or participate in abolishing child labor. Since everybody undoubtedly will feel the impact of it's results. 9
If your a business already there, all that you can do is follow your own company guidelines and their government policy. What you might find ethically wrong may be perfectly legal ...

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Keywords: ethics child labor, moral child labor, utilitarianism ethics child labor, is child labour unethical, explain ethics to a child, why is child labour ethically wrong

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