Child labour has been, globally, a universal topic – widely
discussed throughout national history. Due to modern day development,
technological enhancement and greater societal demands, labour in younger
children has substantially become one of the most leading political aspects. Most
opinions towards this subject have been critical, heavily disapproving the idea
of young children providing for households and families and jeopardizing their
lives. However, it may also be argued that those who criticise only verbally
express their dismay, rather than physically act in order to resolve the issue.
Throughout this essay,
low income countries and child labour within them will be explored, as well as
the different forms of child labour – presenting and comparing examples of
South American countries. Governmental responses will be analysed and written
of – to introduce the effects of child labour on the economy and society of
different nations. Conclusively, a personal statement will be provided, in
order to summarise the impacts of the concept and give first-hand opinions, to
extensively answer the question ‘Is gold
more precious than children?’
in South America: Paraguay –
Central South America, the low income/developing country Paraguay is, yet,
another nation struggling with poverty, shortage and, as a result, child
child labour has significantly decreased in South America and The Caribbean, it
is still considered a major dilemma, acting as a restriction to the nation’s
development and international status. With over 5.7 million underage children
working, the majority of which work in agriculture and farming, South America
has thousands of children engaging with extremely hazardous working districts,
including mining, fishing, fireworks manufacturing and several others.
one of the countries attempting to reduce the problem, making substantial
efforts to eradicate child labour – or at least put an end to severe cases of
labour – distinctly in more rural areas of the country – in 2016. With close to
250,000 working children, from ages 10-17, the country is only beginning to
address this complication – for, not only is labour such a high risk to the
lives of children, but it is also hindering the education of young individuals.
As well as this, production and harvesting of sugarcane is one of the main
tasks children receive. Studies and observation show that there are
approximately 50 sugarcane farms – where children contribute to
sugarcane-related activities daily.
activities such as agriculture and working in factories, Paraguay features a
much less amount of children engaging with gold mining. It could be argued that
– not are there only scarce mineshafts for children – but experienced, mature
adults are hardly known for mining much gold or other minerals in the country.
Although there is much potential for the countries mining companies and
extractive industries, there are limited numbers of such establishments – which
may seem anomalous for a South American nation, as Paraguay’s neighbour
countries – particularly Brazil – are some of the world’s largest providers of
minerals such as gold and raw materials.
also been many protests and social uproars – particularly following the death
of 14 year old girl – a servant to retired soldier Tomás Ferreira – Carolina
Marín, who was beaten to death in January 2016 – and is an example of child
labour and abuse in Paraguay. Ferreira, found directly responsible for
Carolina’s death, is now serving 15 years in prison – as guilty of murder.
this devastating event, the government of Paraguay may have decided to present
change to the country. Although it may require much time, effort and
resilience, the civilians of Paraguay may be one step closer to the elimination
of child labour and the difficulty it brings. This leads us back to the
question ‘Is gold more precious than
children?’ suggesting that countries such as Paraguay are making efforts to
terminate these activities and render children more precious and important.
in South America: Suriname –
Suriname, situated in the
North-Eastern coast of South America, is an example of a country where small-scale
child gold mining occurs. A 2009 study recorded that miners within Suriname
produced a total of 16.5 tons (1) –
which exceeded the total of large-scale mining industries. This clearly implies
that, as well as risking their lives, small-scale miners are coerced to remain
concealed from society, earning their few dollars daily, as their findings are,
essentially, transferred to higher companies and industries – yet, society
credits the latter, rather than the former. It may be argued that we have been
made oblivious to the truth, as consumers hardly question where the supplied
they purchase initially originate from.
Legal definitions within Suriname
of the words Youth and Children are: ‘Persons who
have reached the age of 14, and not yet the age of 18 years’ (2) and ‘In general, persons who have not yet
reached the age of 14.’ (3)
Children are being exposed to dust and debris – which
may be very harmful for their health, as they are at the stage of developing
internal systems. As well as this, due to low income, the country is unable to
provide immunity or vaccinations for common diseases caught through dust such
as ‘diffuse fibrosis’ – an internal lung disease, related to dust exposure,
which may result in further health issues and risk of chronic illnesses. Poor
ventilation and deficient cleanliness may result in overexertion and
exhaustion. This may lead the children to become somnolent and drowsy – again,
increasing the hazard of potential accidents and fatalities, as poorly
maintained mines are already proven to have the risk of collapsing.
Contamination may also occur, due to chemicals such as
mercury involved. Children are known to work full time in mines, and, if
fortunate enough to afford lunch, would most likely bring food or some form of
nutrition to the shafts with them, allowing chemical vapour to enter the food
and, again, present the potential hazard of contamination. Additionally,
children even breathe in impure air – full of toxins and chemical matter, as
well as dust – whilst risking death from hazards such as tunnels collapsing –
to the extent of explosions caused by minerals coming into contact with heat.
Suriname, alongside other South American countries (for
example, as mentioned earlier, Paraguay), has made many efforts to prevent the
worst forms of child labour – signing many treaties and contracts throughout
the years, which address child labour and protect children from the hazardous
forms of it. However, unlike Paraguay, this country has not been as
substantially successful at reducing labour – and, although it is a working and
developing process, is expected to invest more effort and money to, firstly,
progress in terms of economy, secondly, provide destitute families and
households with financial support and, finally, begin to effectively eliminate
child labour in certain areas.
Personally, I believe that the first step towards
success is to create a strong protocol, approved by citizens and the
government, addressing children of poor households to acquire education and
schooling – a protocol permitting young children to receive as little as their
constitutional rights. As well as this, children below the minimum age of
16-18 should be rendered as not physically, nor mentally capable of working.
Education is considered a necessity in the young ages; where one would travel
to school and study bases to receive teaching in developed countries, children
in low income regions would travel to spend, yet another, strenuous and
demanding day at work.
Affecting Child Labour –
Known as the
major cause of child labour, poverty has settled in, more or less, every
household within low income countries. Young, inexperienced children – of
tender ages – are compelled to work in dangerous conditions and districts –
with barely any money to afford suitable clothing to wear. There is no
tolerance for resistance – no endurance or regard for the young lives which
could, potentially, be destroyed. The children are expected to accept these
conditions, and most do, with great fortitude – however, many, in the process,
lose their lives due to the suffering. Of course no parent would want this to
become of their child – but society and class changes the quality of nurture a parent
can provide. Lower class
parents lack capacity to present their households with what they would believe
to be luxuries; where an upper class parent would purchase games and toys for
their child, lower class parents would be constrained to, basically, ‘sell’
their child away for several hours – mining and working, just for the sake of a
couple of dollars.
Studies have shown that approximately 170 million children, worldwide,
are engaging with forms of child labour (3)
– and over half of them are involved in hazardous labour (4). These statistics are mostly constructed by low income regions
– such as Africa, South America and partially Asia.
I have been unaware of such torment, and have become greatly disappointed and
distressed after coming to know of the relatively undisclosed aspects of child
labour. Modern society has only learned to present the benefits: enhanced
family business, lower production fee and advantageous for economy, it seems as
if economical requirements have become more prioritised than the several lives
of innocent children – jeopardizing their young lives by entering mineshafts, hauling
sacks of cobalt and heavy material – staggering beneath the weight of heavy
packs that they must carry to unload from long distances. Pleasing the
government and providing consumers have suddenly become the foremost concerns –
regardless of the child miners living hell on Earth, deprived of
their natural human-rights.
respiratory disease – cobalt lung – is extremely dangerous and can lead to
lifelong disabilities, as well as incapacity and, in several cases, death. This
infection is a kind of pneumonia, and may cause severe choking and coughing,
significantly, in children of a delicate age. The fact that this disease was
named after cobalt, clearly illustrates the hazard presented by the element.
The most concerning factor is that underage children are engaging with this
chemical element on a daily basis; desperation and impoverishment has caused
such circumstances to fall upon families. Children participating with gold
mining involuntarily come into contact with cobalt – therefore, this hazard
cannot be disregarded.
and efforts prove to be futile, as families are struggling to survive in such
conditions – with a daily payment of one to three dollars, it may be a matter
of just minutes, and households would lose young members. There are several
unlisted deaths, with bodies – bygone and forgotten, buried somewhere within
the depths of the mine shafts, amongst the rubble and debris. Inside active the
mine shafts, countless fatalities may take place – any survivors would face
permanent incapacity or terminal diseases, ruining the rest of their lives.
Children as young as seven years of age undertake this purgatory lifestyle and
routine; involved in fatal activities, without the assistance of protective
clothing or modern machinery. This all occurs, just so that the privileged are
able to live lavishly, embellishing their lives with gold and jewellery… If the
producers perish then what will the consumers expend? Ultimately, the indigent
will succumb. After all, how long can they persevere?