Why is There Child Labor In Factories?

When you think of child labor in factories, images of dirty children in early 20th century Europe and America may fill your mind.

Michael Schuman wrote in the Monthly Labor Review,

“The September 1906 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine recounts a story once told of an old Native American chieftain. The chieftain was given a tour of the modern city of New York. On this excursion, he saw the soaring heights of the grand skyscrapers and the majesty of the Brooklyn Bridge. He observed the comfortable masses gathered in amusement at the circus and the poor huddled in tenements. Upon the completion of the chieftain’s journey, several Christian men asked him, ‘What is the most surprising thing you have seen?’ The chieftain replied slowly with three words: ‘little children working.’”1

With the help of many protestors and organizations that saw the evils in making children work, especially in dangerous or unhealthy situations, the United States and Europe made this practice illegal. We may be tempted to think this was the end of child labor. It wasn’t.

Today, 218 million children worldwide work. The International Labour Organization defines child labor as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”2

Children often find themselves in these situations because their families sell them, they work with their parents due to poverty or someone promises them a better life and lures them away. They are not usually choosing it for themselves.

Companies have long seen children as a source of cheap labor, as United States and European history proves. Unscrupulous employers at plantations, factories and mines often prey on families who are struggling to survive and lure them into child labor with false promises. Families often feel they have no choice. Such companies have become adept at hiding the children who illegally work for them, or sometimes the country where they reside simply doesn’t care.

GFA World sees these children and their families. They understand the choices these families have to make every day in order to survive. Their situation often becomes a cycle of poverty and desperation they have little power to escape from, no matter how hard they work. GFA World brings missionaries and resources into impoverished communities to help break these cycles. With programs such as GFA World’s Christmas Gift Catalog, for example, GFA missionaries can provide a source of regular income to a family in the form of farm animals or fishing nets. GFA missionaries help individuals not only with income generation but also by sharing the love of Jesus Christ.

Give to GFA World today and help free a child from a factory. If we can do it in the United States, we can do it for others still in need.

Learn more about child labor in the fashion industry

1 Schuman, Michael. “History of child labor in the United States—part 1: little children working.” Monthly Labor Review. January 2017. https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2017/article/history-of-child-labor-in-the-united-states-part-1.htm#_edn2.
2 “What is Child Labour.” International Labor Organization. Accessed February 16, 2022, https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm.
* ILO Asia-Pacific. Flickr. https://flickr.com/photos/iloasiapacific/15898646897/.