Today, we live in a highly industrialized society that manufactures millions of products every day. It contributes to the increased convenience and diversity. People are able to choose goods they want and enjoy other benefits of the developed industrial sector. However, several centuries ago, the situation was different. Agriculture was one of the most developed sectors of the economy that determined the way people lived and the structure of the labor market.
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Thus, the gradual evolution of scientific thought along with the appearance of new, more efficient tools and approaches stipulated the rise of new industries and spheres that produced new commodities. This period of rapid growth is also known as the Industrial Revolution that resulted in radical alterations in peoples mentalities and the world of labor. Humanity had entered into the overproduction and consumption era with its unique peculiarities.
In general, massive industrialization that occurred in the 18th century was characterized by numerous structural changes in the global economy as the share of the agricultural sector reduced significantly. Moreover, the appearance of new factories and plants demanded an increased number of workers to perform all operations and contribute to the development of the sector. At the same time, the decline of the agrarian sphere triggered population migration from rural areas to big cities that provided individuals with an opportunity to earn money and support their families (“Industrial Revolution,” n.d.).
Cheap factory production deprived many people of their source of income and preconditioned drastic alterations in the structure of the society as a completely new working class emerged (“Industrial Revolution,” n.d.). However, the need for new workers, along with the decreased salaries and deterioration of living conditions, resulted in negative changes in the world of labor.
The fact is that the new social class of workers lived in harsh conditions. The lack of efficient security measures, difficult working environment, low salaries because of the cheap manufacturing process, and constant income of the workforce contributed to the gradual impoverishment of individuals living in urban areas and working in factories. The majority of households were characterized by a low level of income.
In many cases, it was not enough to survive. That is why employees agreed to work in factories regardless of the complicated working environment and numerous accidents resulting in serious damages or even death. Moreover, the constant need for new workers, along with the deterioration of living conditions, created the ground for the appearance of a new negative phenomenon we could still observe nowadays. Many children were engaged in the work of plants and factories.
In general, the Industrial Revolution altered the issue of child labor forever. In the 18th century, teens turned into another source of a workforce that could be used to guarantee the further development of the industrial sector and stable work of factories (“Industrial Revolution,” n.d.). Low income peculiar to a bigger part of families made them allow children to work in harsh conditions to earn money and survive.
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However, peculiarities of this age group and their physical conditions stipulated the appearance of a particular approach to hiring children and providing them with specific working conditions. It included lower salaries and the same treatment common workers faced. Moreover, they were employed regardless of their age and prohibiting laws. However, children had to accept these conditions because of the absence of choice and a significant need for money to help their families to survive. Additionally, at that period, employers started to use children to perform particular tasks in complicated environments characterized by the lack of space. That is why many teens became miners.
In general, industrialization significantly stimulated the further development of the global economy in numerous ways. First, it replaced old approaches with new ones that helped to earn more money and revitalize different sectors. Second, the appearance of diverse goods fostered trade, both domestic and foreign. It helped to guarantee the further rise of industrialization and enrich owners of factories. Third, the Industrial Revolution shattered the world of the economy by introducing new ways of earning money and acquiring significant revenues. Finally, the appearance of new factories and plants resulted in innovative methods to deal with employees.
Altogether, these factors cultivated radical changes in the world economy and the way it evolved. Industrialization created a new vector for the development of the economic paradigm and preconditioned the appearance of numerous tendencies we could still observe today. Finally, it promoted the empowerment of European states and their entrance to the new era.
Therefore, with the course of time, developed countries managed to overcome the negative heritage of the first stages of the Industrial Revolution. Much had changed. Workers are provided with protection and appropriate working conditions. The level of salaries constantly grows, and children are not exploited as a chip workforce. Unfortunately, the situation is different in states that have just entered into the stage of blistering industrialization and extensive development of their economies. Also known as Developing nations, countries like Thailand, Bangladesh, etc., provide their workers with harsh conditions.
The situation is also complex in traditionally poor areas like South Africa, South America, etc. (Berlan, 2009). These areas are characterized by the use of child labor and a difficult working environment. However, the extreme poverty in which families live makes children work to help their parents.
For instance, in Bolivia, one can observe a situation similar to the first stages of the Industrial Revolution. A significant part of its citizens works in horrible conditions. Miners have to take coal in a dangerous environment without any security measures or insurance (Vice Staff, 2013). Many of them die or become injured. What is even worse is that local children also have to work there. In Cerro Rico, about 3000 teens are illegally employed as miners (Vice Staff, 2013).
Sixty of them have died from accidents. These facts evidence that states like Bolivia are still not able to overcome the negative aftermath of industrialization and establish a new working environment. The high demand for a particular product (in this context, coal) preconditions the need to use additional human resources to produce it. For this reason, children are used as chip workforce. Thus, they perfectly realize their position and the need to earn money. For this reason, children start working at 12. For instance, Alfredo, a Bolivian boy, shared his story with a researcher. He manufactured small music boxes for his employer, who promised to pay him. However, after six months of a hard job, he fired Alfredo by saying that the quality of products was inappropriate (Enzinna, 2013).
Alfredos story demonstrates that working children are deprived of any protection as they do not have legal status and are not covered by the Bolivian laws. Another child worker, Juan Carlos, tells the story about his older brother Jhonny who started to work when he was eight (Enzinna, 2013). Extreme poverty and the need for money were the primary reasons that preconditioned this decision. However, when he was 19, Jhonny committed suicide (Enzinna, 2013). This case perfectly demonstrates the complexity of the situation related to the sphere of child labor in developing or poor states. These areas still suffer from the approaches that appeared during the Industrial Revolution.
Nevertheless, Bolivia is not the only example of ruthless exploitation of child labor. For instance, in Ghana, children are used to working at cocoa farms to produce a product that is exported to numerous countries across the world. Therefore, in numerous cases, they are deprived of an opportunity to attend a school or are exploited to work on schools farming lands (Berlan, 2009). The situation is complex as it remains one of the main sources of income for the population living in Ghana. It also evidences that the critical change in peoples mentalities stipulated by the Industrial Revolution remains one of the main causes for the increased topicality of the issue of child labor.
Altogether, much had changed since the rapid industrialization of the 18th century. Numerous states managed to use their achievements to enter a new era characterized by stability and wellness. However, poor areas or developing nations still use patterns peculiar to the years of the industrial revolution. That is why the question of child labor remains an ongoing issue that should be given much attention. Millions of teens across the world face ruthless exploitation and the absence of any protection. They had to work to earn money and to survive in the complicated environment in which they live.
Berlan, A. (2009). Child labour and cocoa: Whose voices prevail? International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 29(3/4), 141-151. Web.
Besen, Y. (2006). Exploitation or fun?: The lived experience of teenage employment in suburban America. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35(3), 319-340.
Enzinna, W. (2013). Unaccompanied miners. Vice. Web.
Industrial revolution. (n.d.). Web.
Shah, A. (2013). Structural adjustment—a major cause of poverty. Web.
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Siddiqi, M. (2009). Do Bangladeshi factory workers need saving? Sisterhood in the post-sweatshop era. Feminist Review, 91, 154-174. Web.
Timmerman, K. (2008). Where am I wearing?: A global tour to the countries, factories, and people that make our clothes. New York, NY: Wiley.
Vice Staff. (2013). Child workers of the world, unite! [Video file]. Web.