Americans' Attitudes Toward Child Labor Are Shifting

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Posted on 8/6/2013

In many of the world's poorest countries, child labor is a serious problem, with an estimated 150 million children ages 5 to 14 working. Many children in poverty have little option but to work to help support their families, and some children are forced to work long hours in dangerous jobs such as mining. Aside from the physical danger these children face, their prospects of emerging from poverty are greatly diminished, as without an education, they have little hope of acquiring the skills they need. In today's globalized society, some companies choose to stock products made using child labor, but a recent survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for ChildFund revealed that many Americans feel strongly about choosing ethically manufactured goods and say they would not buy products from companies that use child labor.

Changing Attitudes: Child Labor Today

Child labor isn't just unethical, it can pose a serious threat to children's physical safety and well-being. In the Philippines and India, child labor is still widely practiced, despite the introduction of several child labor laws designed to protect children from dangerous work environments. Even children who hold jobs that are relatively safe are still at risk; they often miss out on educational opportunities, either because they don't have time to attend school or are too worn out by their work schedules to fully participate in class.

Some companies that use child labor have profited (sometimes unwittingly) for many years, but attitudes toward child labor practice are changing. Although the need to save money is often great in challenging economic conditions such as those experienced by millions of Americans since the global financial crisis of 2008, many U.S. citizens are turning their back on goods and products manufactured by companies that use child labor. In our recent survey of 1,000 adults, 77 percent said they would not purchase clothing or other merchandise if they were made aware that child labor had been involved. In addition, many American consumers are making more informed purchasing decisions and taking a more proactive role in researching the origin of the goods they buy frequently.

"These survey findings provide telling insight into Americans' attitudes about child labor and should help companies understand that they need not make economic choices over moral ones," says ChildFund President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard. "I believe that American consumers will become increasingly educated about the source of the products they purchase and begin making more knowledgeable and ethically driven buying decisions."

Working Together

Stopping child labor is one of ChildFund's top priorities in countries where this practice is still prevalent, but we are not the only organization working towards child labor reform. People like Kailash Satyarthi have been campaigning to stop child labor in India for many years, going as far as rounding up children who are forced to work and helping them enroll in school. During his career as an activist to stop child labor, Satyarthi has freed thousands of children in need from the bonds of child labor, and today, he heads the Global March Against Child Labor, a network of more than 140 trade organizations and 2,000 social advocacy groups worldwide.

Ensuring that children have the opportunity to learn, free from the pressures of forced labor, is one of our primary objectives. Our child sponsorship programs allow you to support children in poverty by providing them with the food, health care and access to education they need to live more fulfilling lives. Just $28 per month will make a tremendous difference in the life of a child, and offer him or her the chance to enjoy a true childhood, attend school and receive other essential opportunities.

Alternatively, your support of our monthly giving programs helps us intervene where aid is needed most, from providing schools with vital equipment to giving families the tools they need to grow their own food. With your help, we can take a stand against child labor and give families living in poverty the hope of a brighter future.