By DAVE BAKER
What are your plans this summer? Playing in the park with friends, going to the beach, having a blast at summer camp? Imagine if, instead of all that, you had to work, not play, all summer long. For more than 165 million kids ages five to 14, that is not an imaginary scenario — it’s a reality.
Most working children are in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, but many kids in the United States work too, especially on big farms. Although it is against the law in the United States for children to work if they are younger than 14, younger children may work in agriculture — and poor families often need the extra money that their children can earn. (This is different, by the way, from household chores like cleaning your room and taking out the trash — some kids work under very poor conditions for ten hours a day or more, six days a week!)
Take Santos Polendo, for example. He told Scholastic News that he started working on a farm in Texas when he was just six years old. It was not easy.
“I had blisters on my hands. My back was hurting. My head was hurting,” he recalled.
Santos’s family desperately needed the money. The main reason children are working is because their families are so poor. Parents are not paid enough on their job, or there are not enough jobs for adults. Children work so that their family does not starve.
Child labor only causes more poverty. For example, in India there are 60 million children working, yet there are 70 million adults who cannot find a job. The adults have been replaced by children because the bosses don’t have to pay kids as much as they pay grownups.
Besides missing out on the normal childhood playtime that the rest of us take for granted, working kids are more likely to get hurt than adults because their bodies and minds are still developing and they don’t have enough work experience. More than 22,000 kids die every year in work-related accidents.
Child labor is a big problem around the world. But people, including kids, are taking action. Read on for ideas on what kids can do to help end child labor.