Poverty is widely considered the top reason why children work at inappropriate jobs for their ages. But there are other reasons as well -- not necessarily in this order:
family expectations and traditions
abuse of the child
lack of good schools and day care
lack of other services, such as health care
public opinion that downplays the risk of early work for children
uncaring attitudes of employers
limited choices for women
"The parents of child labourers are often unemployed or underemployed, desperate for secure employment and income. Yet it is their children - more powerless and paid less - who are offered the jobs. In other words, says UNICEF, children are employed because they are easier to exploit," according to the "Roots of Child Labor" in Unicef’s 1997 State of the World’s Children Report.
The report also says that international economic trends also have increased child labor in poor countries. "During the 1980s, in many developing countries, government indebtedness, unwise internal economic policies and recession resulted in economic crisis. Structural adjustment programmes in many countries accentuated cuts in social spending that have hit the poor disproportionately. " Although structural adjustment programs are being revised to spare education from deep cuts, the report says, some countries make such cuts anyway because of their own, local priorities. In many countries public education has deteriorated so much, the report declared, that education itself has become part of the problem — because children work to avoid going to school. This conclusion is supported by the work of many social scientists, according to Jo Boyden, Birgitta Ling, and William Myers, who conducted a literature search for their 1998 book, What Works for Working Children (Stockholm: Radda Barnen, Unicef, 1998).
Children do some types of low-status work, the report adds, because children come from minority groups or populations that have long suffered discrimination. " In northern Europe, for example, child labourers are likely to be African or Turkish; in Argentina, many are Bolivian or Paraguayan; in Thailand, many are from Myanmar. An increasingly consumer-oriented culture, spurring the desire and expectation for consumer goods, can also lead children into work and away from school."
Other sources: Child Labor: Targeting the Intolerable, published by ILO, Geneva, 1998. ILO information available using: www.ilo.org.
WHAT ARE SOME SOLUTIONS TO CHILD LABOR?
Not necessarily in this order:
Increased family incomes
Education — that helps children learn skills that will help them earn a living
Social services — that help children and families survive crises, such as disease, or loss of home and shelter
Family control of fertility — so that families are not burdened by children
The ILO’s International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) has explored many programs to help child laborers. See IPEC documents on the www.ilo.org site.
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for children to participate in important decisions that will affect their lives.
Some educators and social scientists believe that one of the most important ways to help child workers is to ask their opinions, and involve them in constructing "solutions" to their own problems. Strong advocates of this approach are Boyden, Myers and Ling; Concerned for Working Children in Karnataka, India; many children’s "unions" and "movements," and the Save the Children family of non-governmental organizations.