Working Conditions for Children in Textile Mills

The issue of child labour and particularly in the textile mills subjects these individuals to conditions that affect their health, economic stability and death. However, where exactly did this culture emanate and what are the specific impacts to this young generation and the society at large?

One of the direst situations in both the current world and earlier ages is that of child labour. The issue of young individuals working in various industries has been a major concern causing an uproar from both humanitarian bodies and non-profitable organisations. The international labour organisation (ILO) is of the opinion that although child labour has declined by 30%, the issue is still not addressed as per the requirements (Moulds 2). Further, most states have forbidden the act by law but still, the issue is a rife especially in the poor parts of the world (Cobb 4). ILO further states that 170 million are engaged in the issue of child labour, and the garments and textile garments are worse hit while aiming at satisfying the consumer demand in Europe, United States and other countries. However, the main concern has been what prompts the issue of child labour and particularly in the textile industries (Beckert 2). Although the law is categorical on the issue of child labour and what should be done to the offenders, I believe that there should be something more that the world can do to avert the situation. Notably, these children have been deprived the chance to attend to school. Besides, does it benefit the society or ensures the families of these children continue languishing in poverty? It is essential to note that the issue in the discussion has been in existence for centuries, since the nineteenth century (Baines 1).

Thesis Statement

While the issue of child labour continues to impact the world negatively, the rights of these individuals are neglected beside other challenges such as health and poverty. A major cause of child labour in the mills is as a result of lack of negotiation ability as well as profound representation bodies. While it is possible to avert the situation, the issue of sustainable development should be considered as the core factor behind child labour while addressing working conditions such as poor sanitation, long working hours and harassment.

Background Information

Barrow claims that if one was from a low-income family, they had to work continuously with minimal rest (1). Notably, the issue of child labour is not new to the society. It is noted that the situation begun centuries ago where children were expected to work as soon as they walked (Hall 2). From here they were expected to work for hundreds of years later. Most of the industries took advantage of the cheap labour being provided by the children. One would question why children did not complain this barbaric act. Well, the answer to such a concern is that most of them had no choice based on their poor background (Ittmann 2). The textile mills particularly that of cotton was among the first to utilise child labour during labour revolution (Vera 1). At first, the children were working in the mills that were located near the river. Later on, with the introduction of the steam engines and spinning jenny, the cotton would be spun faster, and the duty of the children was then to work for the mill owners (Tilly 10). It is essential to note that the owners developed several ways of paying the children without using money. The extent to which the issue of children working in the mills goes cannot be correctly estimated. However, a common aspect is that children began working in this industry as early as 11 years (Barrow 5). On questioning the owners as to why they employed children in their factories and operations, some of the reason they provided is that child labour was cheap, and also that child were most active as compared to adults. Besides, the owners claimed that they were preparing them for preference later.

Considering some of the effects and conditions of children working in the textile mills included health, death, deprived security, continuous poverty, poor sanitation and harassment (Heywood 2). Indeed, when children are employed in the mills, they do not have a chance to defend themselves or negotiating for a good pay. Besides, they are easily mistreated by the industry owners. With this regard, they work for long hours, few breaks and limited fresh air or poor sanitation exposing them to adverse health situations (Barrow 3). The lack of fresh air is the main cause of breathing challenges. Also, adults can question the issue of safety working such as the use of the ear muffs and nose covers to avoid breathing of harmful particles while in the factory. This would result in blockage of their breathing system, a challenging condition which will affect them in advanced ages. The issue of children not accessing education and other beneficial social amenities in their life is also a cause of continued poverty to both them and the society. Lack of basic education is enough to ensure these children do not get employed in decent positions even later in their lives (Vera 3). Notably, these children are from a poor background, yet they are paid less despite working tirelessly. Besides, the textile mill owners have developed alternative ways to pay these children while avoiding the use of money (Barrow 2). Such alternatives include feeding them and providing them with shelter. With this regard, the little they earn cannot suffice to improve their financial situation and that of their families. Another argument that can be tabled regarding the situation is that as these children worked in the mills, they are exposed to other dangers such as death. Working on the rotating machines exposes the children to possible accidents, and in the case of such a situation, they are rarely compensated (English 3). Additionally, in case of an accident not many children would afford going to the court to sue the company or claim the treatment cost covered by the employer. Further, the issue of insurance is not considered which means that it is possible for these children being neglected in the case of an accident. Other risks such as fire also expose the child to harmful situations regarding their health and in extreme cases death.

In conclusion, the issue of child labour in textile mills has been a core topic of discussion as a result of the effects it has on the children and the key reasons behind the situation. While most scholars have claimed that countries and humanitarian bodies are against the act of child labour in the mills, the practice has still been going on since the industrial revolution. Among the major causes of the situation include high poverty levels and the issue of mill owners employing cheap labour to make huge profits. Among the working conditions include poor sanitation, exposure to accidents, mistreatment by the mill owners and working for long hours with minimal rest. Some of the impact of these conditions includes poor health, death from accidents and lack of access to education. As a result, these children end up living in poverty for a longer time as well as their families. The ILO, therefore, questions what countries have been doing to avert the situation. While the issue of sustainability has been considered as a major foundation to avert this challenge, one question that still arises is, what more can be done to mitigate this situation?

 

Works Cited

Baines, Edward. History of the cotton manufacture in Great Britain. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Barrow, Mandy. What was it like for children living in Victorian Britain? 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.

Beckert, Sven. Empire of cotton: A global history. Vintage, 2015.

Cobb, James C. Industrialization and southern society, 1877-1984. University Press of Kentucky, 2015.

English, Beth. “Global Women’s Work: Historical Perspectives on the Textile and Garment Industries.” Journal of International Affairs 67.1 (2013): 67.

Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd, et al. Like a family: The making of a southern cotton mill world. UNC Press Books, 2012.

Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd, et al. Like a family: The making of a southern cotton mill world. UNC Press Books, 2012.

Heywood, Jean S. Children in Care: the development of the service for the deprived child. Vol. 5. Routledge, 2013.

Ittmann, Karl. Work, gender and family in Victorian England. Springer, 2016.

Moulds, Josephine. Child labour in the fashion supply chain. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.

Tilly, Chris, et al. “Final Report: Informal Worker Organizing as a Strategy for Improving Subcontracted Work in the Textile and Apparel Industries of Brazil, South Africa, India and China.” South Africa, India and China, Los Angeles, University of California, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment(2013).

Vera, Joseph. Child labor in the cotton mill. The Industrial Revolution and Colonization, 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.