Child Labor

Essay by Jesse MeltonCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 1997

download word file, 4 pages 4.3

The term child labor denotes work done by children which overtaxes

their strength and stunts their physical or mental growth. It harms them as

children and may prevent them from becoming normal adults. Child labor is

therefore objectionable for humanitarian and utilitarian reasons alike. Though

cheaper than adult labor, it is less efficient and constitutes a waste of human

and economic resources. It damages not only the child but society as a


In the United States it brought protests from many quarters, including the

churches, government, and even employers. For example, in the early 1900's

children making artificial flowers inder tenement sweatshop conditions earned 4

cents a gross or 2 cents an hour. Their miseries led ex-President Theodore

Roosevelt to write a pamphlet, 'The Conservation of Childhood.' The titles of

other pamphlets of the period include 'Child Labor and Family Disarray'; 'Christ or

Mammon'; 'The Child That Toileth Not,' a polemic against the myth that child

labor prevented idleness and deliquency; and 'The School as a Force Arrayed

Against Child Labor.'

The evils, however, persisted. As late as 1937 the

Pennsylvania bureau of women and children in a pamphlet entitled 'Children

Preferred' warned against abuses of child labor.

These abuses are hard to combat. Even when, after long delays and debates,

legislation is adopted, it is very difficult to enforce, especially in agriculture and

homework manufacture. Parents themselves have often helped sabotage reform

efforts. Hence, it has been recognized that a legislative step like the gradual raising

of the minimum age for industrial work to 14, then 15, and eventually 16 or 18 for

hazardous or especially heavy work remains only a paper improvement unless it is

accompanied by such measures guaranteeing children's maintenace as assistance to

needy families with many children, and social security programs.

Under the U.S.