According to a survey released by ChildFund International about child labor, of 1,022 people surveyed, the average American guesses that only 6.5 million children aged 5 to 14 are child laborers, and 73 percent of survey respondents say there are fewer than 1 million. Only 1 percent accurately estimate the correct number of child laborers — 150 million.
With knowledge comes power — spending power. When asked if they would be willing to pay more for clothing made without child labor, more than half (55 percent) indicate that they would. Among those indicating a willingness to pay more, the average person says they would be willing to spend one-third (34 percent) more.
Until the recent collapse of a factory in Bangladesh, child labor was a far from hot topic around the dinner table or water cooler. “This spring’s collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh has focused the world’s attention on the often hazardous working conditions that many workers in developing countries confront every day, and while it appears that the more than 1,000 victims of that tragedy were adults, the fact is these factories regularly employ children as young as 10 years old,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International.
Almost one in six children ages 5 to 14 in developing countries is engaged in labor, and aside from the obvious physical dangers that young children face in hazardous working conditions, these children are less likely to complete their educations. The hours they spend working are hours they’re failing to devote to their studies. To prevent this, ChildFund supports programs that provide families with safer options for earning income and opportunities that allow children to remain in school and out of factories.
Goddard emphasizes that not all labor is exploitative or necessarily harmful to children, noting that many children within developing countries work on their families’ subsistence farms or are engaged in other labor to supplement the families’ income.
“The dual nature of our concern,” she says, “is when a child is compelled to work in unsafe conditions or when any work a child is engaged in serves to interrupt his or her education. These survey results indicate that, while Americans don’t have a full appreciation for the extent of the problem, they do have an intrinsic understanding of the negative impact that child labor has on a child’s future.”