Child Matters – Slavery in Modern Times

Walk the Child

“Twice a year in Carrickmacross and surrounding towns a fair was held where men and girls rented their labour to well-to-do farmers for six months. It was Ireland’s version of the slave market.”
Patrick Kavanagh ‘The Hired Boy”

A Few Facts on the Child Labour/Slavery:

  • Child labour is a pervasive problem throughout the world, especially in developing countries. Africa and Asia together account for over 90 percent of total child employment. (World Bank Org.)
  • Children work the longest hours and are the worst paid of all labourers (The International Labour Office ILO in the World Bank Study (Bequele and Boyden 1988).
  • Just 5 per cent of child labour worldwide is for the export industry. The rest is for local agriculture and domestic work in people’s homes. (The International Labour Organisation estimate)
  • One in eight children (179 million) around the world are involved in the worst forms of child labour – work which is hazardous to their physical, mental or moral well being. (The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimate. BBC article estimate 246 million.
  • In Africa one in three children have jobs.
  • There are an estimated 500,000 child soldiers worldwide.

    I have done some research into the matter of Child Slavery since June last year, I decided to compile a few thoughts and facts on the same. First of all it is not a new phenomenon but has been since time immemorial in almost every country in the world. We in the Western Europe do not have it blatantly into our face presently, but nevertheless it is there, as more and more of these children are smuggled into our towns and even into our neighbourhoods.

    Secondly, as we see from the Facts above that I listed: only 5 per cent of the child labour is involved with the export business in the countries, the rest being in the domestic trades in their respective nations. This piece of news is most certainly ‘news’ to me for I have thought that the children would have been the main slave labour for this.

    Anybody who has read/seen the films about the Dickens’ books like Oliver Twist’ is acutely aware that the west has had their share of the children being treated as ‘nothing, nobody’ until the compulsory education, the child allowance and the general benevolence towards children became more of the norm. I am using that expression because as we know the child abuse is still rather widespread – but just in another way. The opening quote on this entry by Patrick Kavanagh was true to many other nations’ children in the times past including Finland.

    Even more facts:

    1. The International Labour Organization in 2005 estimated at least 2.4 million people have been trafficked.
    2. The United Nations estimates that 1.5 million children under 16 are trafficked worldwide each year. (Daily Telegraph article online 4.6.2006)

    UNICEF CHILD LABOR Quizz is in this link.

    There is so much more on this subject but for now tis it, Riihele xx.


    2 Responses

    1. Thanks for the points, I think a lot of them are really key. What always frustrates me when we talk about child labor though is the lack of definition. What is constituted as child labor? Should an after school job to earn pocket change be the same as being forced to work day in and out in a brothel? Obviously not, but some of the research does not differentiate.

      Still, I hope that this does not detract from your main point. Child labor needs to be controlled and curtailed in places where children are being abused. Children should have the right to school. They should never be forced to work in brothels or be child soldiers. And, even if slavery has existed throughout time, it doesn’t make it right.

      Thanks for writing this and spreading the information.

    2. Hei Clare.

      There is a vast difference earning a few bob after school or during the holidays off school to that of being totally and utterly tied to the work situation where the child/person cannot get out of it – ever! No school, no pay many a time and definitely no health or any other care. That is slavery. There is no options in this. The former is just work for pocket money, where one has an option to work or not to work. Great comment.

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