History of Child Labour

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History of Child Labour in Europe

History of Child Labour in the United Kingdom

During the latter part of the 18th century in Great Britain, owners of cotton mills collected orphans and children of poor parents throughout the country, obtaining their services merely for the cost of maintaining them. In some cases children five and six years of age were forced to work from 13 to 16 hours a day.

Social reformers attempted as early as 1802 to obtain legislative restrictions against the worst features of the child-labor system, but little was done even to enforce existing laws limiting work hours and establishing a minimum age for employment. Conditions as bad as those imposed on pauper children rapidly developed in enterprises employing nonpauper children.

Often with the approval of political, social, and religious leaders, children were permitted to labor in hazardous occupations such as mining. The resultant social evils included illiteracy, further impoverishment of poor families, and a multitude of diseased and crippled children.

Popular agitation for reform steadily increased. The first significant British legislation was enacted in 1878, when the minimum age of employees was raised to 10 years and employers were required to restrict employment of children between the ages of 10 and 14 to alternate days or consecutive half days. In addition to making every Saturday a half holiday, this legislation also limited the workday of children between 14 and 18 years of age to 12 hours, with an intermission of 2 hours for meals and rest.

Child Labor in the United States

Meanwhile the industrial system developed in other countries, bringing with it abuses of child labor similar to those in Great Britain. In the early years of the 19th century children between the ages of 7 and 12 years made up one-third of the work force in U.S. factories. Read about Child Labor in the United States here.

International Problems

In the latter part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21th century, child labor remains a serious problem in many parts of the world. Read more about child labor in the world here.

Source: “Child Labor” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia

See Also

Labour Department and Ministry
History of Trade Unions
Hard Labour
Labour, Ministry Of
Social partners in the European Union
Employment Law
Labour law

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