June 12 is World Day Against Child Labor. 152 million children around the world are forced to work, often in dangerous or unhealthy jobs. Here is a short look at the problem.
All through history, children have often been forced to work hard. This is called “child labor”. Child labor is very different than when your parents ask you to help out around the house.
Child labor usually means children working very long hours in very bad conditions. Children may start working as young as six or seven. Some may not get to stay with their families. The children usually do not earn much money, and some do not get paid at all. Not only do they not get to enjoy their lives as children, they often do not go to school, and may have to work in dangerous conditions.
For children in many countries, things have gotten better over the last hundred years. But in many countries around the world, many children are still forced to work, sometimes in dangerous or unhealthy jobs. The International Labor Organization (ILO) says that about 152 million children around the world are forced into child labor.
Farming is one of the main areas where children are made to work. About 70% of the dangerous jobs happen in farming.
In Zimbabwe, some children are forced to work long hours in the tobacco fields. Tobacco has a dangerous chemical called nicotine. The children sometimes have to put other chemicals on the tobacco to kill insects. The children working in the fields can get itchy skin and eyes when the chemicals touch their skin. The children often leave the fields feeling sick.
Buying Things Made with Child Labor
People in countries where there is not much child labor sometimes buy things which were made with child labor from other countries.
One example of this is chocolate. Chocolate comes from the plant cacao, which is often called cocoa. Some areas which grow lots of cacao also use children as workers. In some cases, the children are separated from their families and have no way to stop working.
Another example is mining (digging) for metals such as gold or cobalt.
Cobalt? More and more people around the world are using devices which run on batteries, such as smart phones and electric cars. That means companies that make batteries need more special metals like cobalt to make the batteries. Often children in poorer countries are forced to dig for the metals because that is a way for their families to earn money.
What Can You Do?
It is often hard to know what to do about a problem as awful as child labor. Sharing the news is one step. It is important for people to know that children are still being treated badly. It is also important to let the companies that sell things which use child labor know how you feel.