Child Labor: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Claire DeSaussure

Claire has worked in behavioral programs at the Elementary Level and has an MLS with a focus on Creative Writing.

Children are used as cheap labor throughout the world. Many countries have passed laws to stop young children from working, but millions of children still work, often in unsafe conditions.

Why Do Children Have to Work?

On days when you've had a fight with your best friend, and you have a ton of math homework, you might want to come home from school and relax in your room or play video games. On these days, you probably don't feel very lucky that you get to go to school. But did you know there are lots are kids who would probably think that you are very lucky?

Around the world, more than 200 million children have to work because their families are very poor. These children, who can be as young as five, sometimes work more than 12 hours a day and don't get to go to school! Without the money they earn, their families might go hungry.

Most of these kids live in poor areas of the world in such areas as Asia, South America and Africa. Children do many kinds of work or labor, some make shoes or clothes, some mine for gold, and some pick fruit like oranges. The places they work are often dirty, unsafe, and full of dangerous chemicals. Children who work do not make as much money as the adults, and many are treated badly. This is known as exploitation, because children are too young to understand that they are being treated unfairly.

A Child in Ecuador Working in a Quarry
Children in Ecuador

Did Kids in America Ever Have to Work?

In America, families who need help get money or food from the government so that their children don't have to work. There are laws that have helped make sure that children get to go to school and have time to learn and play. The most important of these laws is the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was passed in 1938 and helped set rules to make sure children weren't forced to work.

Before this, children in America did work long hours. By 1850, millions of children worked in mills making cloth, in factories making glass, and in coal mines. The work was dangerous and children were hurt or killed by machines or in accidents. Factory owners liked using children for work because they were small and could get into tight spaces where an adult couldn't, to fix machines for instance.

Children Working in a Mill in Georgia
Mill Children in Georgia

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