The World of Child Labor

By Tierney Jr., John J. | The World and I, August 2000 | Go to article overview

The World of Child Labor

Tierney Jr., John J., The World and I

To most Americans the problem of exploitative child labor disappeared generations ago with the passage of child labor laws and the elimination of dangerous "sweatshop" conditions. But the problem of child exploitation--an iniquitous subset of a much larger economically and socially legitimate and family-friendly culture of child work--is a living reality in many areas of the developing world, and the issue has commanded growing attention in the Western world.

As Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) told a U.S. Department of Labor hearing in 1997,

"In an age of computers, fiber optics, and space travel, it is easy to forget that in many parts of the world--including our own backyard-- children are sold into servitude, chained to machines, and forced to work under the most dangerous and unsanitary conditions. For most American consumers, the plight of these children has been as distant as a novel by Charles Dickens--not a present-day reality."

Some of that changed in 1998, however, when television personality Kathy Lee Gifford was accused of permitting the exploitation of children in Honduran factories that manufactured clothes bearing her designer label. Gifford denied the charge and testified against child abuse before Congress, thus defusing the issue at the time.

Yet most Americans still find the idea of abusing children for profit repugnant--notwithstanding the long tradition of child labor in U.S. industries and farms during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a time when America itself was a developing country. A survey conducted by Marymount University found that more than three out of four Americans would avoid shopping at stores if they were aware that the goods sold were made by exploitative and abusive child labor.

The issue also reverberated against various U.S. sporting goods manufacturers, including Reebok, after allegations of abusive child labor conditions in soccer ball factories in Pakistan. These charges forced an overhaul of the soccer industry's approach to the child labor issue. Three concrete steps were undertaken by the industry in mid- 1996: Subcontracting was eliminated, cooperation with the government was instituted, and monitoring of the soccer industry commenced.

In a 1998 hearing, Tom Cove, vice president of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, told a Labor Department hearing that "I am proud to report today that the U.S. soccer industry, with the help of many essential partners, has been true to all three of these explicit commitments."


These are positive steps and reflect a mounting awareness that child labor abuse is a growing international problem that needs regulation. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is probably the nation's top lawmaker in this area. His Child-Labor-Free Consumer Information Act of 1997 would institute a voluntary labeling system for certifying that sporting goods and wearing apparel were made without child labor abuse.

"We need that," Harkin told a government panel, "because today the price we see for an item in a store--like a soccer ball or tennis shoes or a shirt or a blouse--tells us how much we have to pay for it. But it doesn't tell us how much someone else had to pay to make it."

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that at least 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working, mostly in the developing world. About half of these work full time, while tens of millions work under conditions defined as "exploitative and harmful." The majority of the 250 million are found in Asia (61 percent), followed by Africa (32 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (7 percent).

Until recently, child labor was not a widely recognized global concern. It was not until 1993 that the U.S. Department of Labor, under congressional mandate, began researching and documenting the issue. International public attention regarding child labor has grown steadily over the past several years, however, and has provoked a global discussion of the problem and possible solutions. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The World of Child Labor


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.