When people think of problems with child labor, they do not think of the United States anymore. The United States has laws that establish how children must be to perform certain kinds of work, and those laws are strictly enforced. The new face of child labor involves children from developing countries, often children who are working in factories to create goods that are then sold to consumers in the United States. Rugs, soccer balls, clothing all of these have been in the news because of the exploitative child labor practices of the suppliers and producers of these products.
The International Labor Organization estimated that approximately 250 million children in developing countries are working. These are estimates of children between the ages of 5 and 14, but there are actually some children younger than this who are employer as laborers, or sometimes enslaved to produce goods. Of this total, the ILO estimate that 120 million children are working fulltime, with 130 million parttime workers. Of this total, 61 percent are in Asia, 32 percent in Africa, and 7 percent in Latin America (Child labor, 1996).
The conditions that most of these children work in are less than ideal. They are often exposed to toxic chemicals or biological hazards, and forced to work long hours in poor conditions for minimal wages. In one ILO survey of working children in the Philippines, more than 60 percent had been exposed to hazardous conditions, while 40 percent had experiences serious injuries or illnesses (Child labor, 1996).
The response to these stories by most Westerners is horror and pressure on the offending countries to pass child labor legislation. The intention in the following pages is to explore this process and its effectiveness.
In some cases, the intentions that drive the creation of child labor law are not clear. Often child labor laws in developing countries are written in response to sweatshop conditions or cond...