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
- social and moral development -
including a sense of group identity, the ability to cooperate with others
and the capacity to distinguish right from wrong.