Some 200 million children between the ages of five and 14 work either full-or part-time, according to the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO).
Yet many poor countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America have no laws prohibiting child labor, or if they do, their governments do not enforce them. It is an integral part of many cultures for children to help support their families by working.
Two main businesses have been harshly criticized for employing and exploiting children: the carpet-making and soccer-ball industries.
Hundreds of oriental-rug merchants worldwide have refused to buy or sell rugs that have been knotted by children in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Children as young as five may be chained to rug looms in those countries and forced to work long hours.
Human-rights, consumer and labor groups established a system in 1994 to inform consumers that rugs have not been made with child labor--those rugs carry a "Rugmark" label. Manufacturers that want the label must submit to random inspections by child-advocacy and labor groups.
The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan states: " No child below the age of fourteen, shall be engaged in any factory or mine or in any other hazardous employment." Also, "All forms of forced labour and traffic in human beings is prohibited."
But human beings do not respect the laws!
About 10,000 Pakistani children under age 14 work between eight and 12 hours each day, hand-stitching soccer balls for about $1.20 a day in wages.
In September 1996, the Federation International of Football Associations (FIFA), the group that organizes the World Cup and other international soccer tournaments, announced that it would not endorse any balls unless manufacturers could guarantee that they had not been made by children.
Increasingly children are transported to work in sweat shops and they are being trafficked to fill what are widely referred to as "three-D jobs"--those that are dirty, difficult and dangerous.
Of 15 nations classified as tier-three countries in the June 2003 trafficking report, 10 were determined to have taken sufficient antitrafficking steps by September 2003 to avoid sanctions.
The five countries that were determined not to have taken sufficient steps were Cuba, Myanmar, North Korea, Liberia and Sudan.
In the absence of widespread change, some observers focus on the importance of raising awareness of human trafficking, both in poorer countries where people are more likely to become victims of trafficking and in destination countries.
How aware were you of the problem of human trafficking before reading this article? Could greater global awareness of the problem make a difference in the fight against trafficking?
"A Cargo of Exploitable Souls." The Economist (June 1, 2002) www.economist.com.
"An End to Modern Slavery." Chicago Tribune (June 18, 2002)
Continetti, Matthew. "Of Human Bondage." Weekly Standard (Oct. 6, 2003)
Platt, Leah. "Regulating the Global Brothel." American Prospect (July 2, 2001) www.prospect.org.
Powell, Colin. "Our Trafficking Signal: Stop!" International Herald Tribune (June 14, 2004) www.iht.com.
San Martin, Nancy. "U.S. Sanctions Cuba for Human Trafficking." Miami Herald (Sept. 11, 2003) www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald."Child Labor and Sweatshops (sidebar)." Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 7 Mar. 1997. Web. 18 Aug. 2010