How did you spend your childhood? If you were like me a typical Saturday consisted of dunking Chip Ahoy cookies in a glass of milk while watching back-to-back episodes of Scooby Doo. Even if your weekends didn’t consist of marathons on Cartoon Network, I would assume that you didn’t spend them working (doing chores for your parents doesn’t count as work) like over one million children in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America.
As a person who has never directly experienced and been sheltered from extreme poverty it is easy for me to take the stance that children should never have to work. But after reading this article, I have come to realize that although this is an ideal situation it definitely isn’t realistic for many people all over the world. According to the Switzerland-based International Labour Organization there are currently 14 million workers in Latin America between the ages of 5 to 17.
The question that has been causing issues for many is simple, what work is acceptable for children and what is not? True, working a machine where there is a constant risk that you’ll loose a critical digit isn’t an acceptable environment for a child or anyone for that matter but what about a child who shines shoes for a couple hours a day? Sure, it isn’t exactly a great way to spend your childhood but other than the occasional back cramp, it isn’t a strenuous task and there probably won’t be many psychological problems caused by it.
Many children interviewed for this piece, said that without their job their economic situation would be unbearable. One Bolivian child, Victor Chipani, was paid one dollar every hour to round up people to fill public minibuses. Although this meager hourly wage wouldn’t even buy you a soda in the States, with his salary Chipani was able to buy supplies for school and help feed his eight siblings.
It seems to me that instead of focusing on the fact that children are working, it would be more useful to focus on the situational factors that are forcing them to seek employment.