State of the World's Children State of the World's Children
The term ‘child labour’ embraces a complex reality, says The State of the World’s Children 1997. Children’s work needs to be seen as happening along a continuum, with destructive or exploitative work at one end and beneficial work - promoting or enhancing children’s development without interfering with their schooling, recreation and rest - at the other. And between these two poles are vast areas of work that need not negatively affect a child’s development.

To treat all work by children as equally unacceptable is to confuse and trivialize the issue - making it much more difficult to end the abuses of child labour. This is why it is important to distinguish between work that is beneficial and work that is intolerable - and to recognize that much child work falls into the grey area between these two extremes.

UNICEF believes that child labour is exploitative if it involves:
  • full-time work at too early an age;
  • too many hours spent working;
  • work that exerts undue physical, social or psychological stress;
  • work and life on the streets in bad conditions;
  • inadequate pay;
  • too much responsibility;
  • work that hampers access to education;
  • work that undermines children’s dignity and self-esteem, such as slavery or bonded labour and sexual exploitation;
  • work that is detrimental to full social and psychological development.
  • Among the aspects of a child’s development that can be endangered by work are:
    • physical development -
      including overall health, coordination, strength, vision and hearing;
    • cognitive development -
      including literacy, numeracy and the acquisition of knowledge necessary to normal life;
    • emotional development -
      including adequate self-esteem, family attachment, feelings of love and acceptance;
    • social and moral development -
      including a sense of group identity, the ability to cooperate with others and the capacity to distinguish right from wrong.

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