Wednesday, October 19, 2011

30% of Afghan children are working in child labor

30% of all children in Afghanistan are laboring in some fashion. Most are doing it just to help out their family, because their parents cannot earn money or not enough of it. There are as many as 50,000 to 60,00 child laborers in the city of Kabul alone.

From CNN, writer Kyle Almond filed this story that takes a look at another of the many problems in Afghanistan.

UNICEF has estimated that at least 30% of Afghan children age 5-14 are working in some form. But the issue goes far beyond Afghanistan's borders: UNICEF says that worldwide, approximately 158 million children between 5 and 14, one of every six children in that age group, are engaged in child labor.

"Most of these children are working to help their families meet their basic needs; not all of them," said Eric Edmonds, an associate professor of economics at Dartmouth College who advises many U.S. and international organizations on child labor issues. "I think it's easy to see instances of child abuse and child neglect and assume they're pervasive and they characterize all of those working children. But I think the reality of the situation is that ... most of those working children are doing so to help meet family needs."

While it varies by country, Edmonds said the world's most common child labor -- by far -- is agricultural. Forget about the manufacturing "sweatshops" that tend to dominate the headlines. Often, child labor is simply a kid working on the family farm.

"A lot of people say that's character-building, that's good stuff for them to be doing," Edmonds said. "But the risks associated with agriculture are actually a lot more extreme than a lot of shopkeeping-type tasks that you can imagine: children involved in toxic chemicals, children exposed to pests, children operating machinery that's too large for them, isn't designed to be done by them. All are serious risks that unfortunately a lot of children face."

Of course, the risk of physical harm is just one of many consequences that come with child labor, whether it's on a farm, in a factory or on a street.

The most serious might be the effect it has on society as a whole. If children are spending most of their time working, they'll never be able to attend school and get the education they need to find a better-paying job one day. Often, they will grow up illiterate and poor and pass on the same problems to their own children.

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