October 22, 2010
I think child labour is harmless within certain limits. Before Craig Kielburger comes knocking, there is precedent for children working without harm (and for much benefit). Ontario’s summer holidays for schools was structured around the summer farm work season. The children were then free to assist their families in the fieldwork and harvest.
In many countries around the world, progressive schools institute a holiday for harvest times of coffee, cacao or other crops. They understand that the children will miss school anyway since it is the only way that families can survive. And even during the school year, the children are expected to help out. It is only a newer idea that it is a bad thing for children to work.
Work is a great teacher for children; it teaches responsibility, appreciation for leisure, and helps them understand what will be expected of them in life. The problem is when work shadows other activities – especially playing and school. The issue is sometimes of need (poorer families need their children to work) and sometimes of greed (exploitation of children as was very recently documented in the diamond mines of Zimbabwe). It’s all about finding a healthy balance with the need and condemning the greed.