The Issue Of Child Labor During The Industrial Revolution

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Child labor is illegally using children under the age of 17 to work in an industry or business. These labors tend to be dangerous to the ethical, social, physical, or mental development of a child. Additionally, work becomes an obstacle to a child’s right to education as working prevents the child’s ability to focus on school work. Children are often required to work long hours in dangerous conditions receiving very low pay and little protection causing illness.

Throughout history, children have been slaves and apprentices to complete tasks, particularly during the Industrial Revolution; the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and in the United States (Lumen Learning, The Industrial Revolution | Boundless US History). Children were quite useful as laborers considering they could fit into tiny spaces in mines and factories where adults could not fit due to their size, children were effortless to manipulate and most importantly, children could be paid less than adults for the same job. Countless children, from poor families, began working below the age of 7 in factories and coal mines. A child might work 12 to 18 hours a day, 6 days a week, to earn a dollar at a factory job or in coal mines leaving them no time to play or go to school, and little time to rest. At times, children were turned over to a factory owner as parents could not support their children. Children often became sick due to the poor, dangerous conditions of labor as they were damp, dark and dirty. Later on, in the nineteenth century, several labor organizers attempted to restrict child labor and improve working conditions, however, it took a market crash to finally influence public opinion (Wikipedia, Child labour). Britain was the first to take action in improving child labor as they enforced a series of laws concerning shortening the working hours and improving working conditions, as well as, raised the age restriction at which children could work. This influenced other European countries and prompted them to adopted similar laws. 

Although such laws are still enforced nowadays, there are countries where child labor is still ongoing.You might assume that child labor is banned, yet it occurs every day around the world, even though we do not see it in operation. We tend to purchase child labor finished products, like t-shirts and other garments, which might have been made by a child in India who earned very low wages. These products would then have been sent to other countries where the company who owns the factory would have boosted the price up in order to make huge amounts of profit from selling each product. Another example of child labor involves the famous US footwear manufacturing company, Nike. Around the 1990s, Nike has been utilizing child labor to produce their shoes providing salaries thoroughly inferior the poverty level and seized to work overtime. Child labor is pretty common in underdeveloped countries such as African and Asian countries until today as many families are distressed and not able to support their children. These children usually work in the agricultural sector, such as fishing and, at farms plucking cotton and coffee beans.India, in particular, is home to one of the most extensive child laborers in the world, holding over 60 million child laborers. It has been judged that nearly 30 percent of the world’s operating children are found in India. Child labor in India is chiefly due to poverty and lack of social security. As a situation, the working circumstances of the children are effectively unregulated and oftentimes are driven to work without food, receiving very low wages, resembling conditions of slavery. There are yet cases where children get physically, sexually and emotionally abused. 

All these struggles are due to the poor lifestyle of the Indian people. A significant real-life case of child labor in India concerns a 13-year-old Lakshmi girl who was kidnapped from her village in North-East India to work in people’s homes across West Delhi- cooking, cleaning and nurturing children in 2014. According to BBC News, the Lakshmi girl was handled very crudely; ‘I was not allowed to rest,’ she says. ‘If I did something wrong or it was not what they wanted, they hit me. If I wanted to sit down for a bit because I was so tired, they would scream at me. I was never allowed to leave the house, so I didn’t realize that I’m in Delhi. My employers told me that we are in Madras in South India.’ (Kannan, Child labour: India’s hidden shame). She also reveals to BBC News that she was sexually violated by the men who seized her and was threatened that if she told anyone about it, they would report it to everyone back home in her village and her honor would be destroyed. Certainly, there are laws imposed against abducting children, but, the law is uncertain on when they can legally work. Child labor law does not allow children to be operated beneath the age of 14, still, anyone under the age of 18 is legally considered a child.

Furthermore, the government body in charge of children’s rights in India reveals they are incapable of helping; ‘Unfortunately our child labor prohibition and regulation act is totally outdated,’ says Kushal Singh, head of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. ‘It says children below the age of 14 cannot be employed in hazardous occupations. Does that mean in non-hazardous occupations a two-year-old child can be employed? So obviously it’s a very regressive act. This issue has been raised and now an amendment is pending in the parliament. However, it has been pending for a very long time.’ Changing the laws will somewhat smoothen the fight against child exploitation. Now, whether or not child labor in India should be forbidden is a common question asked by many individuals. Genuinely speaking, those who consider emotion, particularly empathy, believe that child labor in India should be outlawed as it has rather more harms than benefits. Children are being treated harshly, working long hours in dangerous states earning extremely very low salaries which generates sickness. 

Additionally, extended working hours take away children’s education time that they could spend going to school, as well as, takes away their childhood since they have no time to play. Furthermore, it negatively affects their ethical, social, physical, and mental development. Notwithstanding child labor’s downsides, some may argue, based on reasoning, that child labor should not be banned as children working can help support their families since they are poor and suffering financially. Working children could accommodate their family with more money enabling their family to pay more bills, get out of debt, and have a genuine life. Further, it furnishes the opportunity to provide food and more suitable conditions to families, plus keeps children away from criminal organizations.

In conclusion, each and every individual has their own way of perceiving things in life, therefore, leading to different decision making. Those who use emotion to evaluate whether child labor in India should be banned do not consider the cultural and economic background regarding reasoning in their decision. While those who use reasoning tend not to consider the country’s interest and the rights of humans.

Works Cited

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The Industrial Revolution | Boundless US History. Lumen Learning,

Fried, Milton. Child Labor. The New Book of Knowledge. Grolier Online, 2014,

Kannan, Shilpa. Child labour: India’s hidden shame. BBC News, 5 February 2014,

Children & Cotton – Learning Zone for Social Studies & Citizenship

Beach, Emily. Facts About Nike Sweatshops.

Child Labour in India.

Child labour. Wikipedia, 5 February 2019,

world empires midterm 2. Quizlet, 2019,

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