Banning child labour a ‘mistake’ say experts

Stitch up: Nearly one in seven children 6–14 year-olds in Bangladesh work full time. @PA.

Around 168 million 6–14 year-olds go to work across the globe. The United Nations has vowed to end child labour by 2025 — but now a group of experts says that this would be a bad idea. Why?

What’s happening

In September 2015 the United Nations set out 17 ‘global goals’. One of these was to end child labour ‘in all its forms’. But a group of experts has written a letter criticising this aim. Of course children must be protected from ‘nasty situations’, but a total ban would be a bad idea, they say.

Find out more

Most of the 168 million children in work are extremely poor. Their jobs are often dangerous, and many are badly treated by the people they work for. Many miss out on education, and their chances in life are limited as a result.

But one of the experts says that ‘banning children from work doesn’t bring them back into school’. In fact, many need to work to pay for their schooling. Banning child labour could also force children into even more dangerous jobs.

Restrictions on child labour in Britain were introduced in Britain in the Victorian era. Nowadays, when big companies are accused of using child labour, it seriously hurts their reputation.

But, according to the academics, ‘work doesn’t end a childhood’ at all — it can even improve it.

Some say…

Of course children should not work. Our earliest years should be about going to school, playing with friends, and enjoying the world around us. It is totally unfair for some children to miss out just because they come from poor backgrounds; we should not make excuses for it. Some things are always wrong. Child labour is one of them.

Others think…

That is very naive. Attitudes about work vary between cultures. As long as children have time for school as well, then there is plenty of evidence that certain types of work can teach them important skills and boost their self-esteem. If it helps poor families improve their lives too, then what is the harm? A complete ban would be wrong.

You Decide

  1. Is child labour always wrong, no matter what?

Activities

  1. Write down three questions that you would ask a person your age who is working instead of going to school.

Some People Say...

“All children should get a job at 14.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

United Nations
An organisation of 193 countries that tries to promote co-operation around the world. It was formed after the Second World War.
Restrictions
A measure to limit or stop something, usually one enforced by law.
Victorian era
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 until 1901. She is Britain’s second-longest reigning monarch, after Elizabeth II.
Reputation
The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something.
Naive
Lacking common sense and wisdom.

Subjects

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