In 2011, the United Nations experts reported that about 215 million children worldwide remained deprived of safe childhood, social protection, and educational opportunities. They were doomed to start working at the earliest age and toil in the most atrocious, harmful, and exhaustive conditions. In most cases, confined to full-time employment, these children hardly had any time for play, medical services, proper nutrition, schooling, and ownership of financial remuneration. Such unfair working engagements deprive children of the means of living in the future, as well as inflict severe and often irreparable physical and psychological harm. Labor recruitment of minors stands as a common reason for enhanced childhood mortality. The issue of illegal child labor is the international problem, the gravity of which grows with an appalling speed every single day. Drug trafficking, slavery, prostitution, and forced labor plague the manpower markets in the developing countries. Taking into account the fact that about 153 million children are still abused in Asia, 80 million in Africa, and 17 million in Latin America, this paper would like to argue that the International Labour Organization (ILO) failed to fulfill their aim and abolish child labor worldwide (International Labour Organization, 2016).
The problem is that, in many countries, economically active children and adolescents do not qualify as the workforce. They are regarded as peripheral laborers engaged in the secondary labor market. There are numerous such corresponding jobs which are underpaid, unstable, with high employee turnover, personified relations between the parties, and unavailability of career development. As a rule, they do not require qualifications but are associated with numerous hazards. Therefore, protected workforce representatives do not agree to fulfill these jobs. In turn, children belong to the most vulnerable and underprivileged economic groups along with women, minorities, and illegal immigrants. The laws and rules, which secure the duration of employment in the primary labor market, do not extend to its secondary sphere. This situation is, at least, traceable and potentially subject to control. However, the situation aggravates in those cases, when the scope of state regulation exempts child labor performed at home or with the consent of young workers’ parents. This gap endangers control of debt bondage, informed oppression, and forced servitude (International Labour Organization, 2010).
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The definition of child labor includes any work, which is likely to condition physical, mental, emotional, and moral harm to the child’s development, tear him/her from a family, and impede the procurement of education. Regardless of the availability of financial compensation, any activity associated with danger or injury is considered illegal. Traditionally, child labor is used in agriculture, family enterprises, market trade, private workshops, domestic servitude, mines, tobacco industry, and brick manufacturing among others. In many cases, children are willing to work to help their family or to follow a tradition of child labor established in the community (International Labour Organization, 2013).
The international understanding of the problem of child labor and its continuity transformed as it was researched from various scientific frameworks. At the moment, the dominant point of view explaining the issue of child labor is its exposure to the market forces of supply and demand. This revelation was the reason ILO strived to advance the morality of employing organizations, governments, and households worldwide. Undoubtedly, the early engagement of minors in the industrial relations might seem like a natural solution to the current poverty and perturbations in the economy. However, human rights activists intend to decrease demand for child labor by arguing that child labor promotes individual and national poverty. According to the recent World Bank reports, the tradition of child labor in Brazil robs the lifetime curbs the lifetime earnings by 20%, which compels citizens to remain poor throughout their lives. Being the primary cause of the voluntary child labor, poverty is not the only trigger, as well as it cannot account for the worst forms of child labor. Other human rights priority issues related to the phenomenon are gender discrimination and social isolation of the most vulnerable population groups (International Labour Organization, 2013).
ILO was established in 1919 to mark the end of the WWI and advance the creation of socially just working environments, which would balance the economic prosperity with the observation of human rights. This tripartite structure operated by uniting the effort of international governments, labor unions, and employers’ coalitions in uncovering violations of the international labor legislation, promoting workplace privileges, instituting non-discriminative employment relations and opportunities, ensuring social severity, and modernizing the contemporary industrial dialogue. In 1992, it pioneered the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC). Within this framework, the organization has unleashed the most powerful global effort aimed at the uncompromised abolishment of all forms of child labor across the globe. In 1999, the first convention addressed the most uncivilized types of child labor, such as slavery, prostitution, trade, and trafficking of minors. It also highlighted the issues of child use in military, criminal, and drug trafficking activities. Unfortunately, despite the yeas of persistent efforts, coverage of 88 countries, implementation of the latest technological innovation, extensive support of non-government (NGO) and government organizations (GO), as well as more than $80 million of annual investments, more than 12 million of people around the world exist and toil in outlawed slave bondage. Child slavery is one of the most lucrative businesses conceding on the gains only to the arms and drug trafficking. In fact, $10 billion in annual revenue from slavery make fighting this phenomenon extremely difficult (International Labour Organization, 2010).
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In 1998, another ILO convention focused on the minimum age for legal employment and declared intent to abolish child labor by 2016. The age limit for employment was set at the age of 14 in the conventional working environment and 18 for hazardous jobs. Establishing the age level seemed like an efficient solution for monitoring and legally prosecuting employers, who engaged minors. Unfortunately, the financial aid provided to NGOs and GOs, which were supposed to support this program, appeared in some of the most corrupt international environments and was immediately absorbed by private pockets (International Labour Organization, 2008).
By 2016, ILO achieved only as much as 1% in child labor, statistics decreased in four years (McQuade, 2016). Almost 70 million of children are prevented from going to school while 60% of all working minors in Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa are engaged in extremely hazardous industries, such as mining, pesticide production, and agriculture. In Uganda, Chad, Congo, Sudan and other African countries, children of 9-11 years old are used as the cheap replenishment of the military force. The African city of Benin prospers as the center of the human trade, sending 65 million of children into slavery. Even the negligible progress in combating child labor is offset by the global population surplus (International Labour Organization, 2008).
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The global financial crisis only aggravated the situation, because it increased international poverty and drove up the corresponding demand in the developed countries. Strategic outsourcing moved corporate production to regions with the vacuum of human rights and labor regulations enforcement. Corporations lobby international connivance and bribe local regulators, who are supposed to resist and resolve the problem. According to ILO, more than 120 items in the world trade are manufactured by children (McQuade, 2016).
It is possible to conclude that ILO has failed to fulfill their aim and abolish child labor worldwide due to the adverse combination of the external and structural factors. On the one hand, the global economic crisis boosted poverty and made child labor and slavery more attractive and supported in societies traditionally unobjectionable to this phenomenon. On the other hand, a loosely operating system of social protection betrayed families compelling them to send children to work instead of spending money to pay for their tuition. Transnational corporations aggravated the problem by magnifying demand for child labor in the third countries. Children remain the powerless victims of human rights abuse worldwide despite the universal awareness of the negative consequences of this offense. Up to now, ILO managed to produce numerous statistical reports reflecting the problem without offering any valid solutions.
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