Child Labor By cammie dye

Child labor is often used to describe any form of work that may be harmful to children. Child labor means that children under the age of 18 years old are forced to work. The work that the children did in the early 1900s interfered with their education because it was during the school year. They worked instead of going to school so they could help to support their families. Children, typically ages 7-14, usually worked for 12 hours or more a day in dangerous working conditions. They worked in factories, coal mines, canneries, and also on farms.

Children protest against child labor.

Factories- In the early 1900s, children as young as six worked at the factories. Factories, which is a type of sweatshop, were cramped, dirty, and dark. The children typically worked for over 70 hours a week while being paid very little. Factory workers, called spinners, were on their feet all day brushing lint from the machines and tying ends of the cotton thread together. Doffers, also factory workers, would remove the the spinning bobbins, which consisted of a cylinder cone holding thread, and replaced them with empty bobbins. A lot of the young boys who worked as doffers were barefoot so they could climb up the machines to reach the high bobbins.

Two young doffers remove bobbins from the top of a machine in a sweatshop.

Coal mines- Typically younger boys worked as the breaker boys. The breaker boys sat on wooden boards that were placed next to chutes in the mine, that had come out of the ground. When the coal came pouring through the chutes, they would bend over, and pick out the pieces of stone and slate. The boys had to be very cautious. If they fell into the chutes they could easily be crushed. They then could be suffocated, and killed.

Breaker boys lean over the coal chutes to pick out the stone and sleet.

Canning- Children also worked in canning sheds where it was cold, dark, and damp. Most of the children who worked in the shed were ages 6-8 years old. Parents had usually wanted their children working at their side, so that they were able to keep a close eye on them. They had no place to leave their children, even the youngest and newborn babies were taken to the cannery sheds every day. Many dangers were associated with this job. Workers used large knives in cutting and chopping motions. There were many floors, and benches that are very slippery and, there was a lot of careless bumping that happened which led to a very large chance of an accident happening.

Young women working in a canning shed.

Land work (Farms)- In farm work, there were very little family owned farms with their kids working on them. Typically, families with children travelled from farm-to-farm working under demanding labor that harmed all of the family’s bodies harshly. The child labor laws at the time didn’t apply to farms so, the family had no protection. Also, this meant that any child of any age could work at the farm in any conditions for however many hours the owner liked.

Children work in the fields for long hours in hot weather.

Awareness and change- The children were paid very little or nothing at all even though they worked so hard. In 1900, 18% of 10-15 year olds were employed. There was very little awareness about child labor and no laws about child labor until the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1938. The FLSA was an act that produced the standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, equal pay, and child labor. It made sure the working conditions were safe and didn’t harm the health and education of the children.

A badge of the Department of Labor.

The Progressive Era also was essential to help ban child labor. The Progressive Era was time from 1890-1920 that progressivism (responses to social and economic problems caused from rapid industrialization) was introduced to America. Child labor progressivism started as social movements and grew to be political movements. This means that at first, the people were making movement about problems on their own, but soon after, the government got involved to help with these problems.

People show progressivism by picketing on a street.

Child labor in the United States is illegal and isn’t as much of a problem as it was in the early 1900s, but is still common in some parts of the world. Millions of kids worldwide in developing nation (India) are still suffering from child labor today.Children, starting at the age of 5, go to work for up to 20 hours a day for very little, or no money. A study from the International Labor Organization show that there is about 218 million children from ages 5-17 working (This does not include household work). Children are still found to be working in very dangerous places like factories, mines, quarries, and working the land.

A child in India suffers from child labor.

Asia has the worst child labor problem today, (about 44.6 million working children out of ) with Africa not being much better (about 23.6 million working children). Most children are found in sweatshops, working looms and sewing machines to produce fabrics, and clothes in many developing nations. Between the ages of 10-14, some countries have a high percentage of working children out of children in their country. For example, India (14.4%), Bangladesh (30.1%), China (11.6%), Pakistan (17.7%), and Kenya (41.3%). The working conditions are dreadful, but children still work under child labor to help prevent their own family from going into poverty. Even though children suffer from working, India has a law about child labor under 14, but this law doesn’t stand for family-owned businesses.

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