Recent history of child labor


Children have always been exploited for their labor.

The idea of children having specific rights has only emerged relatively recently.

In Victorian England and 19th century USA, Canada, Japan,  Australia and New Zealand, children were commonly used as cheap labor in mills, factories, mines, workshops and wealthy homes.

Campaigning by social reform movements led to the Factory Act 1883, the Mine Act 1842 and the Factory Act 1867 in England, which regulated working hours, protected young children and improved working conditions. Compulsory education, introduced by the Education Act 1870, further limited child exploitation.

Similar laws were passed in most States of the USA, New Zealand and in the Canadian and Australian colonies.

In 20th Century, growing awareness world-wide led to the International Labour Organization (an agency of the United Nations) to develop standards for the protection of child labor, culminating in the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention 1999.

Almost all countries now have laws which set a minimum age for working.

These laws are not always enforced, and so the exploitation of millions of children continues.







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  2007 by the Anti-Slavery Society. The text on any page may be reproduced provided that the source is acknowledged.  This does not apply to photos.

Last Updated April 01, 2007