Essay Example: Underage Labor

Published: 2023-08-29
Essay Example: Underage Labor
Essay type:  Argumentative essays
Categories:  Job Mental health Child abuse Social issue Essays by pagecount
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1822 words
16 min read

There are approximately 265 million working children in the world (International Labor Organization, 2015). That number accounts for roughly 17 percent of all the children in the world. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for the highest portion of child labor, due to the low standards of living available in the majority of the countries found within the region. On the other side, there are countries and areas of the world where child labor is virtually non-existent. A country such as the United Kingdom has recorded meager rates of child labor. However, that was not always the case in most of the developed world. The industrial revolution significantly contributed to the increase in child labor in the 19th century. However, it was still the same element that led to its elimination as the standards of living started to improve in these industrialized countries. In today’s world, industrialized countries boast some of the lowest rates of child labor. Also, the report by International Labor Organization (2015) indicates that the worldwide demand for child labor has been in the decrease since the end of the second world war, due to improved standards of living in the developing world. However, the decline is not enough since child labor still affects more than a sixth of children all over the world. Child labor is a bad practice from both an economic and moral view. Research suggests that child labor can result in a negative impact on an individual because their lives may long bear the physical, psychological, and emotional consequences of their early childhood.

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Underage labor can physically harm the child through health deterioration. Research by the International Labor Organization, which is one of the bodies that have been tasked with solving the issue of child labor, explored the physical effects on child labor; specifically, those on the adolescent stage. According to the International Labor Organization (2015), employed adolescents in hazardous and non-hazardous jobs have adverse health effects that emanate from their work. The report indicates a secure link between dangerous work and poor health for countries such as Sri Lanka and Albania (International Labor Organization, 2015). That means that underage labor is one of the factors that create poor health among children. Jobs such as working in coal mines or any dusty environment pose a risk of creating respiratory illnesses to the child. The right to proper health and proper healthcare is a universal human right that deserves to be respected regardless of nationality, race, or ethnicity. That means that children in these countries need to be protected from these kinds of situations. Also, since underage labor is an informal sector, there is no systematic reporting of work-related health complications, which makes it difficult for authorities to reach out to these children. However, the physical injuries resulting from child labor is not restricted to illnesses.

Child labor can also physically harm the child to be creating severe physical injuries. Ibrahim et al. (2019) identified bodily harm on a child’s body to be a common occurrence while conducting a systematic literature review on child labor. According to Ibrahim et al. (2019), the authors reported that the prevalence of back, neck, knee, wrist, and upper back exceeded 15%. Also, “child workers in domestic services had 17% more musculoskeletal pain and 23% more back pain than non-workers” (Ibrahim et al., 2019, p.23). The figures from the study by Ibrahim et al. (2019) indicate that children laborers experience a higher rate of physical problems than their counterparts who are not working. Some of these physical injuries include skin and eye strain, which can affect the child’s life even during adulthood. The types of work that are mostly associated with musculoskeletal pain include monotonous work, awkward posture, and heavy lifting, which affects their back. The study by Ibrahim et al. (2019) also identified falling from heights as the most common cause of injury, accounting for 44% of workplace injuries in underage labor. There is also another type of physical harm that can befall child laborers.

Malnutrition is another physical harm that can develop as a result of child labor. A journal article by Roggero et al. (2007) represents research to identify the impact of underage work on the health of the children in developing nations. The researchers found out a correlation between child labor and malnutrition (Roggero et al. 2007). Also, the predictor variables of child labor and poverty are significantly related to malnutrition. The study indicates that underage labor directly or indirectly prevents children from accessing proper nutrition.

Furthermore, the same research indicated that impaired growth as one of the variables that are associated with underage labor (Roggero et al. 2007). Impaired growth, which is also a physical effect, can be a by-product of insufficient nutrition being absorbed into the body. The type of labor that most of these children provide tends to overwhelm the food supply and nutrition supply that is being given to most of these children. The children come from a poor background and lack access to the proper nutrition that can balance out the kind of energy that they spend on their daily labor. As a result, their bodies end up lacking sufficient nutrients because the energy expenditure exceeds the replenishments that come from food. Such imbalance leads to impaired growth on the body. That could result in a lower IQ in children. But that hard labor is not the only cause of malnutrition among children.

Sometimes the malnutrition may be as a result of a busy schedule that denies the child the time to attend to his or her body’s food needs. Nieuwenhuys (1993) is a journal article about South Indian school children who have to balance school and work. According to Nieuwenhuys (1993), for such children, work represents a means to access food, which is their primary source of nutrition. Another report prepared by Gospel for Asia (GFA), which is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping communities in Asia, shows that child laborers are subjected to such tight schedules that it leaves little time for them to eat. A report prepared by Gutheil (2019), shows a young child laborer being forced to eat while working in the field in Northern Vietnam. For such children, their work schedule and the employer don’t allow them to pause to eat, which leads to their malnutrition because their body is not receiving enough food to have healthy growth.


Child labor can also create psychological problems for the child. The psychological impact of child labor can be found in a research article by Martorell (1999), that studies the long-term effects of malnutrition on the child. According to Martorell (1999), diminished intellectual performance is one of the disadvantages of survivors of malnutrition during childhood. That is as a result of delayed cognitive development which emanates from lack of sufficient food and nutrition for proper brain development. The development of appropriate cognitive functions, just like other physical features, requires adequate brain nutrition for it to reach its full potential. Lack of specific vitamins and nutrients causes a deficiency that prevents the brain of the child from reaching maximum processing power. The result is that child laborers will fail to reach their potential in school and other career paths that they may decide to take in the future. Such outcomes lead to generational poverty because the child will be disadvantaged when trying to pursue meaningful careers that can lead to social mobility. Unfortunately, malnutrition is not the only means through with underage labor contributes to psychological problems.

Some of the child laborers can develop psychological problems as a result of workplace injuries. The study by Ibrahim et al. (2019), indicated that falling is the most prevalent cause of injury for child laborers. It accounts for 44% of all workplace-related injuries, including cuts, which were the most commonly reported injuries (Ibrahim et al. 2019). Falling can lead to various brain-related injuries such as concussion, traumatic brain injury (TBI), hemorrhage, hematoma, edema, and even skull fracture. Some of these types of injuries could prove fatal, but if they don’t, then they will most likely affect the mental state of the child. Most of these cases go unreported because child labor is illegal in all countries and operates as a criminal, unregulated activity. As a result, these children lack proper medical cover that could have been used to evaluate their psychological state and recommend treatment if the doctor identifies a problem in the child’s mental state. It is essential to understand that all of the child laborers don’t have a choice in the matter, and that could be a source of human-induced psychological problems.

The psychological condition of the child can be caused by physical trauma that has been inflicted by the employer. The research by Nieuwenhuys (1993) on South Indian children involved in child labor gives evidence of physical abuse by their employer. According to Nieuwenhuys (1993, p. 3), one of the ways that children learn to do preparatory work such as peeling “soaked coconut husks from which coir fiber is extracted” is through beating. The employers would use beating as a way of increasing productivity among the children and ensure that they extract the most from their labor. The same sentiments are echoed by Lee Tucker, who is a human rights watch. According to the report, some of the children reported being hit by the bonded labor man if they think that their pace of work is not sufficient (Gutheil, 2019). Gutheil (2019) indicates that more than half of the children that provide underage labor are in forced labor. Forced labor exposes these children to cases of physical abuse that is sometimes delivered to the head. Repeated hitting on the head could have psychological effects on the child by inflicting various kinds of brain injuries, as mentioned in the previous paragraph. Some of these psychological problems could end up manifesting themselves emotionally hence affecting the child’s ability to socialize.


The traumas of physical injury and psychological harm can manifest themselves emotionally. International Organization of Labor identified emotional development as one of the areas that are negatively affected by child labor. According to the International Labor Organization (2015, p.5), underage labor limit’s the child’s access to “quality education and of an environment that promotes normal physical, mental and emotional development.” School provides a conducive environment for children’s emotional development. In the school environment, they get to interact with teachers, students, and in some cases, non-staff workers. All these interactions contribute to a child’s emotional situation. School provides the child with the first experience of living in a healthy human society by encountering people from all backgrounds and cultures. As much as the labor environment may provide the child with the interaction and its type of social experience, these experiences are usually skewed towards productivity. Everybody in the work environment is there to make an income, and that can live little room for emotional care that is needed for healthy emotional development.

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