Iqbal Masih was an extremely famous teen activist, that fought strongly against child labor from personal experience. Sadly, he died because of his very strong set of beliefs. He was born in 1983, in Muridke, Pakistan. When he had reached the age of four years old, his parents sold him to a carpet making company to pay off a debt of a few dollars. There, at the carpet factory, he was forced to work hard, long hours. He worked about fourteen hours per day, six days per week, in incredibly harsh conditions. He remained strong in the christian faith all throughout this horrendous, and destructive part of his life. After over 6 years of this strenuous labor, his body was already completely destroyed from the over intense labor, that was especially tough on his growing skeleton and muscles. Therefore, he decided to escape. He was sick and tired of being treated poorly, so he plotted. He made a plan to escape over time. One day, the time was right, he escaped. Then, after a while, he attended a school in Pakistan run by people in the Labor Liberation Front. He excelled there, achieving four grades worth of education in just 2 years of education. In 1994, he appeared on live American television. What the audience saw was a small, malformed, malnourished kid, all because of the intense, repetitive, labor that he was forced into. He struck compassion in so many people’s hearts, he started a movement. He basically founded all of the child labor prevention organizations. He spurred other activists into action. He inspired nations. He was scheduled to attend a school in the U.S. on a paid full scholarship, so he could get a higher level education. Sadly, before he got a chance to attend a better school in the U.S. he was shot and killed, just outside of his hometown, the night before Easter.
Iqbal Masih Continued
On the day before Easter, he asked the chief of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, Mr. Ehsanullah Khan, if he could spend Easter at home in Pakistan with his family. But, things took a turn for the worse and he ended up losing his life. He, like Malala, was shot brutally at point blank range, though sadly, he didn’t survive, with a miracle like Malala. His message continued to spread and grow. It seemed to be more powerful after his death. It added a driving blow to his cause, it motivated even more people out of pure compassion. His cause of death bounces between, the “carpet mafia”, the place where Iqbal was sold into slavery making carpets, and people out looking for revenge because of his escape. On the other hand, some don’t believe that to be true because he had almost no enemies. Therefore, those people believe he was shot by the servant of a local landowner, when him and his cousins tried to stop him from harassing their family’s donkey. His day of death was on 16th April 1995, 25 kilometers from Lahore, Pakistan, about half an hour from his home. The servant drew out the weapon, a twelve bore shotgun, and open fired on Iqbal and his cousin. Iqbal took the brunt of the attack and took 72 pellets from the gun. He was killed instantly. His cousin only took about 7 shots, but that was also pretty bad. Iqbal may not be living on, but his message and legacy are, and they are stronger than ever. Still, more and more people are motivated to donate to the cause, or become an activist.
Conditions of Child Labor
The conditions of child labor are not only strenuous and hard on your body, but dangerous, leading possibly to injury or death. Iqbal, one of the teen activists who fought and died for his cause against child labor is an example of how torturous child labor can be on your body. He suffered a growth disease due the horrible conditions that he was forced into. It prevented him from growing to be taller than four feet. His body was still growing, so that messed up his ability to do just that. He prematurely worked lifting heavy weights that damaged his muscles and skeleton.
There are many children employed in hazardous jobs across the globe, especially in countries with higher poverty rates. Poverty does affect how big of a part child labor plays in a country. Low income children are more likely to be forced into child labor. Diseases that are received or caused because of their low income status can completely change how they work, it can make the diseases even worse by being in those environments, and they are more likely to be injured or possibly die because of that disease, so it makes the conditions of child labor seem even worse.
On average 22,000 kids are killed annually at their hazardous jobs. Children can also be harmed in coal mines where their main purpose is climbing through narrow spaces where adult workers won’t fit. In those tight spaces, they breath in coal dust as well as an assortment of other things, that can damage their lungs. Another reason kids are injured at their jobs is because of long hours and hard manual labor. That hard manual labor is especially hard on young children since their muscles are not yet fully developed and they are not finished growing. Some effects of child labor include: rapid skeletal growth, development of organs and tissues, increased risk of hearing loss, increased need of food and sleep, higher absorption rates with chemicals, growth defects, and lower heart tolerance. One fourth of children forced into child labor pick up some type of disease or disorder, while at work. Up to 2.7 million kids are killed every year, due to unhealthy conditions and diseases picked up from child labor. Children, rather than adults are more likely to create tragic accidents because they are employed in “unskilled” labor, training may be insufficient, work may be illegal, and a lack of experience.
Children in agriculture related labor are more likely to be injured in work, a 5 times larger margin of injury or death. Several causes of injury and death rates in agriculture are: pesticide exposure, working with machinery and sharp, dangerous objects, lack of clean water, and bathroom facilities, and less restrictive standards. The long, hard, strenuous, and repetitive work day after day can affect a child’s social skills. They are not allowed to interact with other kids. They have to just focus on their tedious and mind numbing work. The kids don’t have to work their brains when they get in the habit of doing the same thing day after day, they don’t have to make decisions any more. They don’t voice their opinion. Also, it can affect their educational skills. When they are forced into labor, they cannot go to school anymore. And even if they escape, they have missed so many years of education, that they are extremely far behind all the other kids their age. They don’t ask questions or for help, they are an island, because their social skills are underdeveloped. They lack the skills needed at school. Why would they even think of going back to school after so many years of doing mindless labor.
Most Common Jobs in Child Labor
There are many fields of work that unfortunately decide to employ children to provide as extra unpaid labor. If a business is struggling with funds, or doesn’t want extra workers to pay, they just hire children, thinking that they won’t know that they deserve better. A good quote about this factor of child labor is, “Unlimited exploitation of cheap labour-power is the sole foundation of their power to compete.” -Karl Marx
Agriculture is a HUGE contributor to child labor, a lot of children are enslaved on farms due to debt, or being an orphan, or just being sold. About 60% of child labor happens in an agriculture related job. A big area of farmland requires as many workers as possible as to harvest the crops in an allotted time. There are a lot of children that could be employed, for little or no pay, between the age of 5 and 17, kids will work long hours harvesting and tending crops out in the field. The work is also the most physically demanding job, so it cripples both the minds and bodies of kids in that field of work because it doesn’t require much thinking when you do the same thing day after day. That means that a lot of kids are crippled because it is the most hazardous and largest form of child labor. Countries with higher agricultural parts of their economy and higher poverty rates are more susceptible to child labor, because debt is always needing to be payed off. a few common crops in agriculture are: bananas, cotton, flowers, oranges, cocoa, tea, and other assorted fruits and vegetables.
Another big part of child labor is manufacturing. Around 14 million children are employed in a manufacturing job, making carpets, clothes, fireworks, sports equipment, glass, bricks, silk, matches, gem polishing, brassware and surgical instruments. Older kids may be employed and or stationed at a position that is illegal for that age, such as operating machinery. Most people unknowingly support child labor because most of the items made by child labor in manufacturing are found in a lot of households. The conditions are: no education, horrendous pay (if any), they also have to work long, hard, hours, and they are exposed to dangerous fumes and chemicals which can lead to asthma, lung cancer, and deformities. This is a graph for child labor in industry.
Most Common Jobs in Child Labor Continued
Believe it or not, show business at a young age can be considered child labor. Parents can force their kids with an amazing or unusual talent to become a superstar. Kids are not meant to undergo that amount of pressure to perform or stress of being a celebrity. They also don’t know how to handle having lot’s of money. Kids should not have to worry about the stress of being grown up at an early age, they should be enjoying being a kid, not having any worries, because when they grow up, they will have to deal with that stress. Another reason this is child labor is it introduces the kids to alcohol and drugs at an early age and they have to deal with that a lot. As a result of this, some child stars die due to drug overdoses because they were addicted at a young age.
Finally, there are a few more areas of work that are prominent in child labor. Mining, domestic work (such as working as a maid, illegally transferring drugs, and even working as a soldier. In mining, younger kids at the age of 6 or 7 loosen rocks, while older kids, around 9 or older blast with dynamite. A few minerals being commonly mined by children include: diamonds, gold, emeralds, coal, chrome, and charcoal. 17 different countries have been discovered having kids employed to fight in situations that may be dangerous. Jobs as a soldier include: fighting, spying, searching for mines (explosives), enslavement, and cooking. Most of the kids are taken by force or were orphan. Even schools can be used as military bases.
Many big, and well known companies around the world, are often associated with child labor. It is so hard to make sure that your company is child labor free, if you have millions and millions of workers around the globe, it would be so hard to check every worker in your company around the world. But most companies willingly use child labor, as cheap or free work, to make more money.
One of the biggest and well known child labor scandals, was Nike. Most people now know that Nike has sweatshops all over the planet in third world countries that they hope are never discovered. They made sure to place their sweatshops carefully, in developing countries that are less fortunate, and have less money. Making the few cents per hour seem like more than it really is. To Nike, it is nothing, to the workers, it is everything. Nike is most infamous for their sweatshops making shoes. Shoes are one of the massive products that Nike produces. There are child labor boycotts in the U.S. so Nike just applied child labor in countries that don’t have those laws protecting their children from hazardous work like that. Pakistan is where their child labor is based, the country has a lot of people doing low income work, and is especially prone to child labor. Nike was fiercely protective of their nasty secret, causing many people to unknowingly support child labor. Countries involved in child labor tend to have higher birth rates, leading to more desperate parents, and more child laborers. Nike took zero precautions to verify children were not involved in the manufacturing of their products. Nike used their good public image to their advantage, using it as a mask, thinking no one would ever suspect them. When an article about child labor in Pakistan came out in 1996, Nike panicked, because a picture featured a child surrounded by scraps with the Nike logo, making around 60 cents per day. Life in the sweatshops included few breaks, and long, hard, hours. All of Nike's celebrity supporters were under fire for supporting them, and they were horrified, not knowing anything about it. Nike says that they, "Pay decent wages," according to commondreams.org, which is kind of ironic, because workers are only paid a few meager dollars a day. Nike, JUST don’t DO IT!
Another big company, and a very surprising child labor company was Nestle. Children under the age of 15 still continue to work on cocoa farms after a decade, despite Nestles effort and promise, "We are committed to preventing and eliminating child labor in our supply chain." Thankfully, Nestle has been one of the best responders, they took the responsibility very seriously. 260 of Nestle’s cocoa farms were inspected, 56 of the workers on those farms were under 18, 27 of those 56 workers were under the age of 15. Some of the child laborers are paid nothing at all. At Nestle’s cocoa farms in West Africa, 7% of their farms used some form of child labor. Work on farms like those includes, using machetes, carrying very heavy loads, and being around other dangerous tools. Conditions on these farms were also very rough, child labor victims who work on the farms described being whipped, being physically abused, working 14 hour days, and sleeping in horrible conditions. Those kids work in an industry that makes around 90 billion annually, while they make about 60 cents per day. Pressure on Nestle just kept on building. As a result of this, Nestle decided to help form a group that is directed toward preventing child labor. Now for Nestle, their top priority is trying to deplete child labor as much as possible. Thankfully Nestle is facing the consequences, and taking responsibility for their actions, and trying to solve their labor problems, as small as they are, but no child labor would be ideal.