On air: When is a child old enough to work?

The short answer if you look at the law in Tanzania is 18. But the reality is very different. Since we’ve been here we’ve heard many anecdotes about street children being employed by local businesses, of families being so poor they have to take their children out of school so they can earn, and of teenagers wanting to earn some cash to get the music and clothes they aspire to.

And in the case of the last example there’s nothing unusual in that the world over. At what point do you think children should be allowed to work? if you’re a parent, teenager or business owner we’d like to hear from you espeically.

Finding the balance between a child’s natural desire for money and independence as he / she grows up, and protecting them from exposure to underpaid and unhealthy labour is proving hard here in Tanzania. One pupil at St Mary’s told me today he didn’t believe a 16 year old is capable of deciding what is best for him or her, and that if they were earning they’d not be able to use the money wisely.

But then I think back to our discussions in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, there was no shortage of young people telling us 16 year olds should have the vote because their ready for the responsibility.

It comes back to how much responsibility and independence society wants to give children. And also, just as some of you were concerned 16 year olds with a vote would be manipulated by political parties, so some of you argue there is always a risk when you allow children to enter employment.

Tell us what the law is in your country, and what you think it should be. Did you work before you were 18 and if you did how did you find it? Do you have children now and would you allow them to go to work? Can earning teach some important lessons about the value of hard work and money? Or does it simply expose children to a world there’s no rush to discover?

The pupils of St. Mary’s would like to hear.

73 Responses to “On air: When is a child old enough to work?”

  1. 1 Mark from kansas
    July 11, 2008 at 07:37

    You have to do what you have to do to put food on the table.

  2. 2 Virginia Davis
    July 11, 2008 at 08:45

    I began ti earn money the summer after my freshman year in high school and my mother made sure I got my social security card at that time. I worked cleaning tourist cabins at the Toll House Motel in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California for a dollar an hour. I was about 13. From then on I bought my own clothes. Next year I got a five cent raise. And the summer after that I began working in the town drug store.
    All my four years at college, I was “work-study” – first in the cafeteria and after that in the college library. I was 14 when I began to work. Things are different in the US today – that was 1956. I had chores at home from much earlier on.

    I know many young people do volunteer work these days, especially to have entries on work experience to get into college. And I am sure a lot of young people don’t have to work while in high school and in college because of parental support.

    Virginia in Oregon

  3. July 11, 2008 at 09:01

    I think I a child can work at the age of 16 years!,In kenya you are likely to find people in age group of 18-28 years who are still jobless! But I am told in Europe and the USA young people work at the age of 16 years!,Age is not a block to anyone to start working! it depends on an individual’s capacity and capability of an a person to work beond his capability and abability!

  4. 4 portlandmike
    July 11, 2008 at 10:00

    I saw children working in the mid 60’s. Somehow I stumbled into a courtyard in a casbah in north Africa where a hundred children were working in a dark room that was divided in half horizontally, so that there were two rooms, and each room was five feet high. They were hand weaving at looms that went from floor to the low ceilings, and wall to wall. It was very quiet.

  5. July 11, 2008 at 12:39

    Kids should learn to work from the moment they can carry out a task properly. All life – meaningful life, that is – is work; right?

    I run my own business, and have a daughter at university. She’s been working at all sorts of jobs from age sixteen, and it’s done her no harm at all.

    But, from what age are kids employable? I started my working life at sixteen and am still at it 33 years later. No complaints.

    The question has a lot to do with social background and the total societal-economic picture of the country in question. Still, I’d say kids can begin working at sixteen (if they aren’t going to get any further at school etc.), but there should be tight labour laws governing their treatment and wages, and they should enjoy some sort of protection until they’re…say…eighteen?

    Better a 16 year old worker than a 16 year old criminal; and I’m speaking about my own country, South Africa, where 14 year old criminals abound.

  6. 6 Marsha
    July 11, 2008 at 12:55

    The question is ambiguous. If you mean work like contribute to their family and home and environment, I say as soon as they can walk and talk they need tasks that teach them how to be a part of the creation of a successful life. If you mean by work to be a paid employee, then some place between 12 and 18 depending on the type of employment and the knowledge and skill of the young person. It is foolish to wait until a person is of legal age to work for them to begin learning how to work. America is being devastated by this philosophy. And at the same time no person who has not yet reach their own legal majority should be forced into labor. They should be protected by law from slavery and indentured servitude.

  7. 7 steve
    July 11, 2008 at 13:13

    I got my first paycheck job when I was 15, at a fast food place. The company was taken over within several months, and fired all the 15 year olds. So I didn’t work again until I was 16 then worked at a pharmacy. A year or so later, the company that had fired me for my age sent me a “settlement check” as what they did was illegal, but apparently nobody thought to sue them for firing us, so we extinguished our claims for $100.

  8. 8 parth guragain
    July 11, 2008 at 13:25

    this is ve3ry hard question to answer.Here in Nepal childs from poor families have to work from early age as seven.Child labour is a very harsh reality of Nepal.

  9. 9 Brett
    July 11, 2008 at 13:55

    I’ve been working since I was 14, I see no problem with children that age working in a responsible and respectful work environment. I think the most important aspects of young workers is that firstly, they don’t get taken advantage of and that their parents have a very active roll in monitoring their working situation. And equally as important, that their work doesn’t detract from their education and also their childhood experiences and social growth.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  10. 10 Abhinav
    July 11, 2008 at 14:20

    well for me i would love to work now(i am 15)because right now i have the fire power in me to work harder.
    But to talk about my country -Nepal,many poor children are forced to child labour and i do agree to the point made by Parth:
    “Child labour is a very harsh reality of Nepal.”
    but there are some works which have to be done according to the age.what i mean is that a 16 year old boy cannot be a salesman of a workshop.

  11. July 11, 2008 at 14:22

    My sons started work washing up on weekends in a local hotel restaurant at the age of 12 in 1970s. I knew the owners, it was a safe environment, and it was their choice to work. They got 50 pence an hour (in UK) and they spent it on whatever they chose. One worked all summer to buy a model railway.

    It was a good way for them to achieve a level of independence, and insight into the working world. They worked hard at school without prompting to achieve better opportunities.

    This however is a million miles from the enforced labour of small children in poor families. It should never replace school time. Chores are OK, but a child’s work should never be arduous or prolonged. Childhood is a time for playing. If a child doesn’t have a choice, or is exploited, it’s a matter of serious concern to society.

  12. 12 Justin from Iowa
    July 11, 2008 at 14:52

    I went to work doing farm labor, loading and unloading hay, driving tractor, etc. as young as 10 years old, here in Iowa in the USA. But that wasn’t an intensive full time job. We should remember though, that in the US, historically, children worked as soon as they were able in the rural/agricultural world.

  13. July 11, 2008 at 15:13

    children are never too young to learn the responsibility of work. however, that does not mean that they should be forced to work. little tasks for little hands. children should be allowed to learn, grow and have fun. childhood should be a precious time, not time to grow up too fast.

  14. 14 umoh (from Nigeria)
    July 11, 2008 at 15:39

    In most of our African societies, poverty has not allowed the question to have an ideal answer. This is because most children start working as early as 7 years.

    In an ideal setting however, a child should start work at about 18 years (i.e. after he/she must have finished at least some College and is able to make and take Responsible decisions about life) or WHAT DOES THE WORLD THINK???

  15. July 11, 2008 at 15:43

    My Precious young friends at St. Mary’s International school : A very big Salaam to all of you guys from Baghdad… Ah, in my opinion a child must NEVER work until the age of 16 years… When the child reaches the age of 16 years a very special attention must be paid to the enviroment in which the child will be working, I mean the type of work, the work boss, fellow-workers (and especially adult fellow-workers !), ect., ect.,. Unfortunately in many places of the developing countries ‘child labour’ is just a polite description of another extremely dangerous phenomenon which is ‘street children’… Any parents capable physically of working who make their children leave school and send them to the street must be jailed and fined so that no one would ever dare again to take away the innocence and joy of childhood from our kids… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…

  16. July 11, 2008 at 15:45

    My father was in the ranching business, here in the US, Wyoming to be exact. If I remember correctly, I was in third grade when we began spending the summer months, my brother, sister and I, working on this ranch. We could not live there during winter months due to the lack of schools. The property was fairly remote.
    Due to my age, I was given tasks that wouldn’t get me in trouble, mangled, killed, etc, but these tasks, no matter how you look at them, were work.

    I picked up nails, broke beaver dams for irrigation water and did anything I was told to do.

    I actually think that was one of the most significant events, and times, of my life. Not a week goes by I don’t reflect back on the place, the people and the times we had. Yes, I got injured, from time to time, but no worse than any “normal” kid. On the flip side, I LEARNED so much I can’t tell you, and learned things I continue to rely on today.

    I learned a work ethic, became a conservationist, and also learned an appreciation for the farming and ranching world, one of the most misunderstood lifestyles in the United States.

    I also learned an independence that I see lacking in a lot of kids today, mostly those who grow up away from nature and within the confines of the concrete world.

    I’m not sure your question has a correct answer, and obviously there are many situations where kids are being exploited and abused, but I wanted to shin light on at least one situation where someone started working early and it was extremely beneficial.

  17. July 11, 2008 at 15:52

    I find it humorous when i hear about child labor. My father, confirmed by my grandmother, tells me stories about being 8 to 10 years old when he had 5 sisters to help baby sit. At 10 he was responsible for getting up early enough to milk 20 cows before going to school. Cleaning stalls and more milking were part of the nightly routine. His step father was pretty worthless and my father was also responsible for butchering livestock by the time he was in his mid teens. Summer times were spent working fiefs dawn to dusk during planting and picking seasons. many kids got hurt on the equipment, others even died. Today we would throw the parents in jail for “forcing” the kids to do this kind of activity. These are tasks that today would be considered appalling by today’s standards.

    In countries where the people are so poor they have to send their children to sweatshops just to get by have bigger problem. Child labor is just one of the symptoms. However it has been a growing American tradition to treat the symptoms instead of the problem in recent years. There is more money in it.

    Work can give children a natural purpose and understanding of life. You are less apt to end up with VT or Columbine shooter mentality if children find meaning in life at an early age. They can teach an understanding of budgeting that seems to get lost in our schools today.

    I got my first paying job at 8 working on my fathers construction site picking up scrap. At 13 I started a career as a “horse sanitational engineer”. I had a degree in moval and removal. It was about 13 when I asked my father for $40. he handed me a newspaper and a phone book. He said, “There is a million dollars right there. Alls that you have to do is find it.”

  18. 18 Chola Simwanza
    July 11, 2008 at 16:02

    Am from Zambia, this is a very interesting topic in that it is something that i see on a daily basis. I will give you an example just the other day i meet round about 19.30pm in the heart of town crying.I approached the boy of about 12 years why he was crying. He naratted to me how two elderly men robbed him of the little money that he had made for home.I can guarantee that that boy got a good beating when he got home because he was being sent to go and sell so that the family has food on the table.So parents would rather send there young ones in town to go and sell food that they make home and wait for them to come home with money. To me that is child labor and even the government has become so strict but again with the high numbers of orphaned kids they resort to go to sell so that they can take money home to be used by the guardian or parents.
    Again its an issue of Human rights. I strongly feel that for some one to start work at a tender age is a not good because i have seen what can go on while they are on the streets.They get bitten up, the goods taken away by the council authority and all.
    Its really a hard looking at the current situations.

  19. 19 Janet T
    July 11, 2008 at 16:06

    I began working in the summers at age 9, picking strawberries then blackberries then beans- we pretty much worked all summer. I did this until age 14 when I could get a job in fast food, then at 16 we worked in the canneries all summer until after high school graduation- and many worked in between their college years there as well. I learned the lessons of hard work and the money I earned gave me the freedom to buy what clothes and music I wanted, without being dependent on my parents for those things. My son who is now 21 began picking blueberries at age 14- he also has worked or been in school everyday since.

    I think it can give a child/teen great self confidence and accomplishment.

    I also think it is probably a far cry from child labor in many other countries where children are exploited.

  20. July 11, 2008 at 16:11

    In developing countries, it’s all normal for children to start work at a very early age. Their parents consider this as way for them top get the skills of the job when they grow up as it is a source of income for the family. many parents can’t afford to send their children to school because of distance or the cost.

    As compromise, working children should be given the opportunity to get basic education, at least not to remain illiterate. In poor countries, it’s hard to end child labour as governments have no alternatives to help their parents to provide for them.

    What is bad about child labour is when children are forced to do work beyond their capacity or when they are exposed to hazardous conditions.

    In as sense, it’s better to have working children rather than street children who resort to theft, prostitution and begging to survive.

    As long as poverty exists and it is impossible to enforce laws regarding child labour, there will be in effect no age at which children shouldn’t work. There will continue to be very young girls working as maids in homes as there will be boys doing all types of jobs under the eyes of the authorities supposed to protect them.

  21. 21 Justin from Iowa
    July 11, 2008 at 16:22

    I think the key point that is being echoed here by many people, is that child labour at even very young ages is not a bad thing, is in many cases a very good thing, even a necessary thing.

    But child exploitation is never a good thing, at any age.

    At least, that’s how I see it so far.

  22. 22 Lauren
    July 11, 2008 at 16:29

    I began working here in the US when I was about 12 yrs old, and I got my first real job at age 16. Since then, I’ve pretty much been working two jobs in addition to being a full-time student for the past 8yrs.

    Starting in high school, it became my responsibility to cover my own costs (movies, clothes, tuition, text books etc.) and while I didn’t really mind working, I do feel that I was forced into the working adult role to early. It’s fine to have a part-time job to earn some extra cash, but it’s another story when a child feels pressured to work because they need to pay there own way in life. It was hard having to watch my friends leave after school while I stayed behind for my work-study job to help with tuition and it really sucked to realize that the end of the school year didn’t equal summer vacation, it just meant that the part-time job at the grocery store just got bumped up to full time.

    I feel that if you’re going to tell a teenager to get a job to help with the expenses, make sure it’s not having a negative effect on their academic and social life- kids need to be kids after all! It also might be a good idea to make sure that some of that money is going into a savings so that 10 yrs down the road they’re not looking back with nothing to show for their hard work except a purse that’s out of style and a pair of jeans that don’t fit.

  23. July 11, 2008 at 16:34

    Here in Bamenda, Cameroon, it’s common place to see children as young as six years old to be seen along the streets with trays of food and delicacies hawking. It’s much worse now during the holidays when children are now on holidays. There isn’t much strange about this act because the very act of selling by these children is seen as a means for these children to work some money towards their school fees during the next term. The government law states one should be at least 18 but in the face of poverty, the odds are too many.

  24. July 11, 2008 at 16:43

    Hi WHYSers!

    Is it ever okay for children to work? I wonder! In large part because whereas some children are matured and can “deal”, the vast majority are usually not. Learning the responsibility of work, I think, is a different matter than actual working in the larger context of child labour. No?

  25. July 11, 2008 at 16:49

    I certainly endorse learning responsibility and the like, however, I am often very doubtful about the work in a context where one is not supervised or closely monitored. And that is not just in relation to the actual carrying out of tasks but more in the vein of the responsibilities and demands which come with this territory. Working children develop a sense of “independence” which can, often, be decieving insofar as the onset of early adulthood.

    Let us not forget that a child’s body and capacities are still not fully matured regardless of how old they may seem and act. There is still room for guidance from adults and a need for belonging in a stable and “normal” family setting. Working for wages, or a salary has the real effects of undermining
    / disrupting these very necessary developmental levels through which a child must pass before attaining adulthood.

    Of course, these things vary from person to person. Still….!

  26. July 11, 2008 at 16:57

    In Jamaica, we have a saying that some people are “old before they are young”, as a way of referencing the experiences of children who have been robbed of their childhoods, whether through early sexual exposure, often with adults in many instances, or just from a very challenging life. This has to be considered in the context of what it means to be a working child; that is, beyond the question of supplementary income for the household.

    And, this does not overlook the value work can have in the lives of some children, indeed, in the entire household in terms of freeing up monies to focus of the real needs of the family. Rather than the wants and desires of its younger members, which though important, does have the real possibilities of diverting needed resources away from comparably more critical areas in the family/ household.

  27. 27 nelsoni
    July 11, 2008 at 16:57

    Children who ought be in school have no business working. Every thing comes down to economic empowerment. If parents are economically empowered and have enough to take care of their family with enough to spare, the thought of allowing their children work will not cross their minds. As the “child” grows older and he wants things his parents will not give him money for, its ok for him to work and in that case the child is working because he wants money to fund a particular lifestyle not because of economic hardships in the family. This is common in the developed world.

  28. July 11, 2008 at 17:13

    Nelsoni, I could not agree with you more. However, I was really trying to tease out the tensions created by the very point you were making to also say that there is a clear need for states to become sufficiently empowered so that the needs of all its citizens are adequately addressed. In this regard, issues like child protection becomes one of the primary concerns in the business of child labour. It is not only exploitative in terms of this generation but others which will follow. That is something that must be considered a basic human right which is worthy of protection. So, yes, I am agreed with you, as you may have noticed by my earlier posts.

  29. 29 Venessa
    July 11, 2008 at 17:16

    I came from a poor family so anything extra I wanted I had to find ways to earn it. Many times the money I earned was contributed to the household finances out of necessity. I can remember as early as 12 years old spending my summers babysitting and cleaning houses to get money. At 14 you can obtain a work permit and get a job here in Oregon. My first job was working on a berry farm. After the seasonal job ended I got another job. I mostly worked in fast food and did some administrative work during my high school years. I have pretty much had a steady job since I was 14.

    There are children out there that can balance working for a little extra cash and those that can’t. My grades never suffered as a result of working but I was definitely forced into the workforce early as a result of our family’s economic status.

  30. 30 Carla
    July 11, 2008 at 17:21

    I began to work around age 12 in the late ’60s here in the US, mostly caring for younger children, but by my mid-teens was attending school full time and working nearly full time hours at a local (unionized) grocery. Each of the working children in the house were required to contribute part of their earnings to our poor household but were permitted to retain funds for “pleasantries” — our own lunches, clothing, movies, etc.

    Until retirement a few years back, I worked full time uninterrupted from age 15 to age 53, raising 4 children and completing my college education along the way.

    There is nothing wrong with a child working at a young age… seems age 10-12 would be acceptable SO LONG AS the work environment was appropriate and safe and does not interfere with schooling. Exploitation should never be permitted.

  31. 31 Thea Winter - Indianapolis IN, USA
    July 11, 2008 at 17:25

    It all depends on what you consider work. I started working as a baby sitter at 14 years old. My first job, when I stated paying taxes, was 16. In the US people can start working at 15 as long as they do not work in an industrial job. At 18 we can start to work in the industrial field. The only exception is if the work is on a family farm.

  32. 32 Shirley
    July 11, 2008 at 17:30

    I posted this to the other thread:
    Child Labour: Wealthy Muslims living right here in the United States have no compunction against having a 13, 14, 15-year-old “maid” (read “slave”) from an Asian country such as Malaysia or the Philippines clean their house to their nitpicky standards, care for their baby and assure that the baby never cries, and clean up every mess that the baby makes even after the child is old enough to pick up his own messes.

    It makes me physically ill. We are supposedly a humanitarian religion and supposedly have a system such that there is no support for slavery in today’s world; but as in everything, wealth trumps religious values for creatures like these.

    Slavery isn’t gone, not even form the U.S. It just has different names.

  33. 33 nelsoni
    July 11, 2008 at 17:35

    @ Agostinho: i find common grounds with you in the regard

    @ Venessa: Your story buttresses the point I made in my earlier post. If you came from a wealthy family you would not have as a young girl with all the attendant risks. If families are financially empowered, Children working at any level will reduce greatly. If you see kids working, it’s because they want money to fund their lifestyle and not because they want to support their families. Personally, All my pleas to my parents to work fell on deaf ears because they provided every thing i wanted and when I eventually got to work it was not because of the money but to get work experience. I was around 18 years. But sadly this is not the case for of millions of young people all around the world

  34. 34 Anthony
    July 11, 2008 at 17:36

    When it’s a life or death situation, whenever they can physically do it.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  35. July 11, 2008 at 17:50

    @ Carla,

    I hear you loudly and clearly and very much agree with you insofar as the types of work which a child does in this regard. The truth though is that the issue of working children, though not new by any stretch, is one which brings with it all sorts of concerns about how such experiences can rob children of their right to being a child as well as invoke a whole other series of psychoses into said child’s life.

    I think of a story I heard reported on E! TV that superstar Mylie Cyrus, 15 (I think?), exhibits some of these very signs of maladjustment (?) caused from her early work experiences. In her case, she feels that she has more say in the household that is run by her parents because she earns more money than they do. This clash of authority between parent and child is distressing, largely, because it is the job of a parent to protect a child, no matter how wealthy and important they are.

    Indeed, the same might also be said of other child stars like, Shannen Doherty and a host of others who have, at least according to media reports, suffered from working from early and, often, in very adult environments. Think, Drew Barrymore, Lindsay Lohan, Brittney Spears and others.

    The same is true at the other end of the spectrum, where extreme poverty forces people, specifically children, into very vulnerable and exposed circumstances vis-a-vis the question of child labour.
    This is true for children who must work in sweat shops and those who are forced to work in brothels from as early as nine and ten years old.

    It is absolutely distressing that children are forced to do these kinds of things in the interests of earning an income for the welfare of the family. Often, their pain and suffering go unnoticed because children, as a group, do not have a voice. They are not sufficiently empowered as to speak up in their own defences, in terms of the question of exploitation.

    By no means am I referring, then, to the fairly “innocent” babysitting experiences and the convenient hiatus in fastfood establishments. Why? Because, there is an underlying implication here insofar as that references the power of choice. I can, in other words, choose not to work and, therefore, forego these “needs” which are, in the final analysis, not so critical.

    However, where children are either forced to work or are being exploited by adults who benefit directly from their labours, these warrant state intervention in the interests of protection of their rights. That, I think, is at the heart of the discussion about the law as an instrument to protect children from being exploited under the guise of “innocent” labour like babysitting, etc.

  36. 36 Venessa
    July 11, 2008 at 17:51

    @ nelsoni

    I think it’s great that you weren’t forced into working early, although I would say if you desired a job that it might not have been a bad thing. There is value in learning how to manage time, money & social interactions as long as it does not interfere with your education. Fortunately I was a good student but often this is not the case and studies to suffer.

  37. 37 jamily5
    July 11, 2008 at 17:59

    There should be a distinction made between working to help support the family and working to earn a bit of money.
    Most children in the USA work to earn a bit of money they are not responsible for helping to support their family.
    Like Justin in Iowa, boys detassel corn, bail hay etc. My sons did. We started teaching them about money, saving and other such financial concepts.
    The point is that my children did not “have” to work and their work did not interfere with their education or their childhood.
    sometimes, children do get responsibilities that they are not ready for or are unable to handle.
    On the flipside, I know adults that don’t want to work and think that they should live off of their parents — not working even after they have a family of their own — all of their lives.
    There are child labor laws, at least in the usa, that say that children can only work so many hours a week and must not work after a certain time at night.
    But, sometimes these laws are not obeyed.

  38. 38 Justin from Iowa
    July 11, 2008 at 18:05

    Rich kids play sports, do drama, dance, etc here in the states. Poor kids work. They both build life skills, working usually more than the activities though they both contribute. Middle class kids usually do a bit of both. I was firmly middle class.

  39. 39 Justin from Iowa
    July 11, 2008 at 18:15

    Can I just say that the students at St. Mary’s are probably some of the most polite and have the best discussion skills I’ve heard in a long time here on the BBC. Everyone is giving each other fair chance to speak, nobody shouting each other down, talking down to each other… Can we send your other usual guests to learn from these students?

  40. 40 Giselle
    July 11, 2008 at 18:23

    Children should not be allowed to take on paid work. They should be in school, getting the educational foundations to eventually pull themselves (and their families) out of poverty. Robbing children of education in order to put them to work as unskilled labourers is akin to destroying their long-term life chances in favour of short-term wages. It’s short-sighted and wrong-headed. Child labour also encourages poor families to have more children than they can support and perpetuates the poverty cycle.

  41. 41 Justin from Iowa
    July 11, 2008 at 18:28

    I think the 2 bbc speakers are dissassociated with the reality of families on the edge. That child putting in some work can mean the difference between that child GETTING to go to school, or getting to eat for that matter.

  42. July 11, 2008 at 18:36

    What you are broadcasting is criminal indoctrination and abuse of our children. I am surprised that the BBC would take advantage of the innocence of children, and use paid adults to indoctrinate mere children.

    This is most disgusting and I condemn the BBC for this crime absolutely.
    Concerning labour, African children and their parents, as slaves, laboured to lay the foundation of the industrialisation and economic prosperity of the UK and USA what they are today.

    I sold in the street and the value of my life and my contributions to BBc worldhaveyoursay came from my experience as a street-selling child.

    African traditions, customs and values are, most clearly, transcendentally better than British and American traditions, customs and values.

    Prince Awele Odor
    Lagos, Nigeria

  43. July 11, 2008 at 18:41

    I do not have the privilege of hearing the discussion where I am right now.

    However, I would be interested in knowing whether the audience at St. Mary sees and understands the distinctions alluded to above in Jamily5’s post in terms of what is considered child labour?

    Does the Tanzanian situation adequately take account of the nuances of privilege and how that impacts this definition?

  44. 44 Marcel - Douala Cameroon
    July 11, 2008 at 18:43

    in my country children are allowed to work at 18. But many are on the streets carrying out small scale business.
    I’ve started working at 20. It was in a state owned company.
    I believe children should be allowed to work earlier. Some parents are very poor and they need a hand. But that work should not be risky for hose children.

  45. 45 Bright - University of Malawi
    July 11, 2008 at 18:44

    I walked barefoot 15 or so kilomentres in the chilling winds of July from 4 a.m. to work on the tea and coffee estates of Thyolo when I was 13. I was in Standard 6, and on holiday. But it never occured to me that I was a child. All I knew was that I was old enough to do something about my poverty as a school child. Therefore, circumstances and culture, and the “children” themselves can say “how old is enough” better than our laws.


  46. 46 Julie P
    July 11, 2008 at 18:44

    Regarless of the law, sending a very young child, say the age of six, out to work may be the difference between eating and not that day. It is a vicious cycle that I would like to see broken. Maybe poverty needs to be illegal.

  47. 47 devadas.v
    July 11, 2008 at 18:46


    in india before the age of 14 a child is exposed to work means its illegal and face punishment according to criminal law ..fine and punishment ..its compulsory education for all in india till the age of 14 ..

    but reality is another barring our state kerala were literacy rate is 90percent in other states particularly tamilnadu ,orissa ,rajasthan etc children work from a tender age of 6or 7itself ..

    in sivakasi in tamilnadu this 7 and 8 year old pastes labels on matchboxes and firecrackers for a living ..there are about this kind of nearly 10000children working in sivakasi thus adding to the family budget ..all due to extreme poverty ..

    if at all they are forcefully admitted to schools within days they skip out back to same work were they earn rs 50 to rs 75 daily girls and boys ..

    same in jalandar and other punjab regions were sports goods are a cottage industry there also this below 10year old work for below 100 rupees to make football for adidas outsourced franchisees.like wise cricketbats ,tennis ,badminton rackets and shoes and other sports aceessories are made ..

    all this due to poverty ..same is the case in all northindian states were some children are held as bonded labourers or slaves still as their parents owe the zamindars some money as debt ..

    in rajasthan its the pauxity of water and electricity that makes the boys and girls work when they are below 10 to collect firewood and water for their home and do manual work to earn for their family ..

    its said when india was for family programme the rajathan villagers use to say electricity and water can be a good condom like terminator as due to the pauxity of water and electricity they are having more children even in poverty as more children means more to outsource them for basic needs .

    so in india its poverty thats making children below 10 to do work ..if all things are steady and no poverty is the order of the day then 18 is the age of doing work i feel.

  48. 48 Mr Modar - London
    July 11, 2008 at 18:47

    if you are going to stop corruption you have to develop good institute and good governance – anti corruption laws are needed too.

  49. 49 John Passie _ MONROVIA, LIBERIA
    July 11, 2008 at 18:48

    Child Labor shouldn’t be defined as domestic jobs, rather it is involving a child into works to earn money for the family. In my country Liberia, it is not prevalent for children to work in factories but rather they are sent into the street to sell goods or food items which is a form of child labor and must be stopped.

  50. 50 Prince Awele Odor - Lagos, Nigeria,
    July 11, 2008 at 18:48

    What you are broadcasting is criminal indoctrination and abuse of our children. I am surprised that the BBC would take advantage of the innocence of children and the gullibility of some adults.

    This is most disgusting and I condemn the BBC for this crime absolutely.
    Concerning labour, African children and their parents, as slaves, laboured to lay the foundation of the industrialisation and economic prosperity of the UK and USA what they are today.

    I sold in the street and the value of my life and my contributions to BBc worldhaveyoursay came from my experience as a street-selling child.

    African traditions, customs and values are, most clearly, transcendentally better than British and American traditions, customs and values.

  51. 51 Bob Howard - Northern California, USA
    July 11, 2008 at 18:49

    I just wanted to point out that we do have child labor here in the United States. It is different in that in most cases children aren’t working to help support their families – but it is a definite rite of passage for teenage children to get summer jobs. Many children under the age of 18 work in restaurants or doing odd jobs, mowing lawns, pulling weeds, etc.

    It is an important part of learning the value of money and instilling work ethic.

  52. 52 Mr. Madar from London
    July 11, 2008 at 18:50

    Corruptions in African nations is a big problem. In my point of view I am against corruption, the answer to child questions people should not pay a bribe.

  53. 53 Bhaskar from Nepal
    July 11, 2008 at 18:50

    No doubt Child labour is a predominant problem in our country but I have seen its bright side also.
    One of my friend sells newspapers every morning and he is able to study in our school.
    He is the first boy of our class. I don’t think that has hampered his education.

  54. 54 harriet in london
    July 11, 2008 at 18:50

    come on guys, bribe is like telling a lie in a CV, but thats what we’ve been brought upto, its worse that in Africa is about knowing some one or else money makes you get a better treatment. i know its wrong but its already built in some of us because its the only way we in Africa survive. if our heads are doing, then what about the rest of the people.

  55. July 11, 2008 at 18:51


    Your point is, indeed, taken and no one would be foolish enough to dispute that. However, it remains to be seen whether the construction of these issues through the medium of the law adequately takes account of the realities of these same situations. Are all “working children” to be seen in the same ways?

    And, is the effort to use the law to criminalise children who work in some of these places not part of a larger project by some Governments to deny their own complicity and, therefore, their responsibility in ensuring that children are properly cared for in and by the state?

  56. 56 Andrew - Australia
    July 11, 2008 at 18:51

    If you want a civilised world, then in any way shape or form bribery is a criminal act. It is wrong – simple. You abuse the trust you have, the authority, the power you have over people.

  57. 57 Denzel
    July 11, 2008 at 18:51

    In Jamaica you will pay a bribe or any paper work or important documents will be a slow crawl but until we fix the system bribery will go on till the end of time

  58. 58 nelsoni
    July 11, 2008 at 18:53

    @ Justin In Iowa

    I agree with you, Future guests on WHYS should listen to a recording of these kids discussing before they come on air. They would learn a thing or two about the art of discussion.

  59. 59 anthony missen
    July 11, 2008 at 18:55

    What a wonderful thing to hear the voices of so many young people, it is a shame this kind of programme isn’t commonplace, it goes a long way into understanding the younger generations perspective on the world. This kind of thing should be commonplace in the UK, perhaps then the older generations might then not feel so far removed and look at youths like a different species.

  60. July 11, 2008 at 18:59

    @ Denzel,

    I am not quite sure how we arrived at the point of bribery. However, as a Jamaican, I am compelled to say that though your example is common it is not always the case. In fact, it would be useful to mention how what you describes goes to the heart of other concerns about indiscipline throughout several layers of the society. Hardly anyone wants to wait for anything anymore. This gives rise to a state of always being in a hurry and, therefore, part of why people are in the business of bribing others to “speed things up”.

  61. July 11, 2008 at 19:01

    Bribery, in this regard, though systemic in Jamaica, goes to the heart of concerns about discipline and public trust. If we do not expect our officials and those who process documents of the kind to which you refer, to be trustworthy then it seems natural that “payments” of this kind would be the order of the day. No?

  62. July 11, 2008 at 19:38

    though I lived with my Guardian, I started street trading at 14 in South Eastern Nigeria.

    I did it with my whole heart though because it was the only means to finance my Secondary Education.

    It was good enough a motivation cos today I live in Lagos Nigeria, Far from my parents and Relatives and never feels lazy.
    the result today is an instinctive moral maturity that I may not have developed if I was protected from work.


  63. 63 jamily5
    July 11, 2008 at 19:44

    Yes, your points about the psychology of children and the amount of responsible that they should bear are well thought.
    I agree that these things need to be taken into account.
    One might very well be physically and mentally able to do a task, but are they emotionally?
    when a child is the bread winner or even constant contributor of a family’s income, then, their status and the family dynamics change.
    Neither parents nor children can have it both ways.
    Now, I realize that in families where poverty is present, psychology and emotional health takes a back seat to physical health and survival.
    But, you bring up some interesting points about some children.
    should child stars be allowed to make as much money and work as much as they do? Should there be stricter laws about parental controls and/or parental exploitation?

  64. July 11, 2008 at 20:58

    First off, we have to define work. It means doing things outside the home for pay. Chores aren’t work.

    I got my first job at 15 at a fast food joint. There were a lot of restrictions as to what I could and couldn’t do, which is understandable. That said, working at that age was fine. I think I would have been fine working those 15 hours a week younger in my life.

    Child labor has been exploited throughout history and that exploitation is awful and deplorable. That’s why the government should step in and make sure, as they do very well in the US, that exploitation is non-existent.

    But the question wasn’t really for the united states but for the less-developed world. Education of children should be a priority for any family, community or nation. But avoiding poverty and starvation come first. Tanzania has a law that prohibits anyone under 18 from working. I think it is a mark of developing country that the burden of providing for a family is shifted more and more onto the adults, but to try to force that to happen is folly. In Argentina there were families that were so poor that the kids had to work so that there would food on the table. The government should do all it can through financial aid and incentive progams to keep kids in school, but these are developing countries where the governments don’t have enough money to do that effectively and simply putting a law in place that prohibits children from working isn’t going to solve anything.

  65. July 11, 2008 at 22:05

    @ jamily5 and tim b.

    I agree with both of you.

    There is no denying that chores cannot realistically be considered “child labour”, in perhaps the same ways that babysitting and some other forms of supervised internship, if even for pay, would also not qualify in these terms. Child labour denotes a more extreme representation of completing tasks, often not supervised in the same way an intern is, and under very demanding situations, as a means of ensuring income, often for an adult or as a result of conditions usually created by them.

    In reality, the case of child labour, whether in Hollywood, or at Ground Zero where poverty is a hardcore reality requires more rigourous attention and state intervention. Criminalising working children is, in my view, not the most appropriate means of addressing this complex problem, as the monies and other resources used to enforce such a law might be better spent addressing the real needs which push children to work in the first place.

    Poverty does not have to mean desperation and I just wonder how much of this effort to criminalise working children in Tanzania reflects that?

    What are the implications for parents who force their children to work as a way of reaping benefits from them?

    And what of the child’s own right to “normal” childhood in which adult responsibilities like fending for a family are not thrust upon them before they emotionally ready and psychological able to deal with these?

  66. 66 Pangolin-California
    July 11, 2008 at 23:07

    A child should work inside the household at small tasks from the moment they are old enough to help. An adult who cannot keep a house is pathetic yet common in the US.

    Children can work alongside their parents from that point but the tasks must be appropriate to their age and abilities and structured for safety. If a parent has to beat a child into compliance that parent should be strictly disciplined by the courts.

    Children should not work outside of their families close supervision until they are old enough to say NO to an adult an make it stick. Teens working outside the home for survival monies are frequently abused in all cultures.

    I think that the US model of having teens who do no physical labor and are completely unfamiliar with common tasks such as sweeping, gardening and cleaning after meals are at a loss to understand the real world. Every student should learn and demonstrate competency at a physical trade as well as learning the liberal arts and sciences. In the US we have adults in their 20’s who can’t make a pot of rice or do their own laundry much less fix anything. College graduates that are literally useless when faced with a task that doesn’t involve a keyboard.

    The kind of child labor where a child spends 8 or more hours away from their parents doing repetitive tasks should be harshly punished. I hold these people to be exactly as damaging as those who sell children for sex.

  67. 67 Emile Barre
    July 12, 2008 at 12:03

    Obviously children should not work. But today for many it is a war to survive. In the conventional meaning of the word ‘war’ children have fought eg WW1 WW2 etc.I ask myself why should it be a war to survive in the New Millennium?

  68. 68 enyia nelson
    July 12, 2008 at 13:23

    In my country Nigeria, the legal work age for a child is 18 years. However, the prevailing poverty in Africa & Nigeria in particular has compelled many children below 18 years to withdraw from school & take to hawking or other minial jobs. Today, it is common to see many under age Nigerian children working in order to help sustain their poor parents & relatives. Unless govt adresses the scourge of poverty in the country, the scenario will continue. from Enyia Nelson in Aba- Nigeria

  69. July 12, 2008 at 22:24

    A child is a child! People always want to ignore the fundamental rights of Children. In villages, it is presumed that, if children are not taught how to work at an early stage, they will be wasted and therefore suffer in future when they become adults! In the process, they load them with heavy work which is purely a violation of children’s rights!

    But i think its wiser to start giving them light work, and teach them accordingly as they grow so that they can know how to survive on their sweat! They will certainly know that whatever they desire must be earned.

  70. July 13, 2008 at 19:05

    “Children shouln’t work until they are old enough to do it.” I guess that a lot of people will agree with that statement. So will I. Unfortunately, the reality is that today millions of families live in poverty and under poor conditions. Parents have to send their children to work instead of sending them to school.

    For example, here in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, the town where I live, a lot of children whether they are from the urban or rural areas start working at early age. You can see a lot of them on the streets wiping windshields for fifty cents (local currency)or the squares polishing shoes. No one here likes to see that, but what can we do?

    What would you do if you were a child who never got the chance to meet his parents? What would you do if your parents left you when you were an infant and no one can’t take care of you? And I can keep giving more and more examples.

    The reality is that when a child is going through any of the experiencies mentioned above he or has no other choice but to work and supportng himself to survive in this world.

  71. 71 John in Germany
    July 14, 2008 at 16:13

    If the work is in a unhealthy environment, for long hours, and a pittance for pay, so that products a mede cheaply, and some scrupulous person earns millions from this type of child labour, then a child is never old enough.

    If it is an introduction to work, on a farm, in a shop, or at home, then a child can be old enough at six ,collecting eggs, pulling the rest of the thinned out carrots out of the earth behind dad, being nourished in to responsibilities within the family, as part of growing up, and so on.

    So once again it is where, and in what nest you were put into at birth, that gives this question many answers.

    John in Germany

  72. 72 Kofi Kudom
    July 18, 2008 at 13:33

    The value of giving children a chance to work and do business eearly in life lies in the fact that it demistifies bussiness. I believe work and business should be ordinary , and people should be equiped to function productively from very early in life.
    I started woking at the age of about seven when I help my mother set up her own hospital in Nigeria, I worked as a Purchasing officer, helpng her to buy drugs from wholesale and retail distributors. . I also helped on the farm and around the house way before I was seven years old. This has made me very tough and very entrepreneural. I started my first independent project when I was about 13 years old. It was a small farm that did not yeild very much in terms of food but it did yeild a lot as far as experience is concerned. Many other projects after that I made my first attempt at creating a formal business at the age of 21. My first successful company was started when I was i second year of University. I am still learning and improving everyday. It is a trajectory that had to start early because trust me life is short.
    A lot of my friends who were sheilded too much as children sometimes look at me and wonder how I do it…but the truth is that there is no miracle to it.
    This is not to say children should not be protected from exploitation, but the philosophy that beleives that age always corellates to maturity is very very overrated, especially in the west.

  73. 73 Kofi Kudom
    July 18, 2008 at 13:37

    What amuses me even more is the fact that people sometimes transpose the reality in their culture onto another culture where socioeconomic dynamics are totally different. We also forget that the work we do as children is a vital aspect of our education and actually gives us our first chance at making decisions and observing the consequences.

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