xi's moments
Home | Featured Contributors

Child labor is a stain on the US

By Xin Ping | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-07-11 14:21

Birds fly near the US Capitol at sunrise, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, Feb 8, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Imagine a scene where a group of children under the age of 14 toil in a dark workshop. Where do you think this might be happening, Asia, Africa, or Latin America? As a matter of fact, it is happening in the United States, the biggest and most advanced economy in the world.

A report from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington revealed shocking facts about child labor in the US. According to this report, a number of states in the US are trying to weaken the already loose restrictions on child labor so that some industry groups could profit from the ceaseless flow of young immigrants coming from the southern part of the American continent.

Hasn't the federal government done something to stop this, you might ask. Hannah Dreier, an investigative reporter of The New York Times, described how the US government treats undocumented teenage immigrants. When those teenagers arrive alone in the US from South American countries, they are sent to jail-like facilities as the Department of Health and Human Services decides "who's going to take all of these kids in the long term". With the number of border-crossings soaring, the department, skipping necessary interviews and background checks, swiftly releases those teenagers to sponsors who might exploit them for child labor.

The sponsors and dysfunctional institutions are not the only ones to blame. The US government is equally culpable. Till this day, the US remains the sole UN member who has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Without a legally binding obligation to honor any international rules, the US government is "free" to ignore massive violations of children's basic rights at home.

Without proper protection from the host country, those children are subject to a wide range of dangers including physical harm. Some states are lowering the minimum age for both nonhazardous and hazardous work while rolling back child protection. This is bound to cause more risks. Dreier has pointed to incidents when young children fell from multi-story buildings and suffered lost fingers and ripped-off legs. Furthermore, the maximum working hours were prolonged, squeezing those children's school hours and undermining their competence for future career success, according to the EPI report.

More shockingly, violations of children's right to life and health are widespread not only in small-town underground workshops under the radar of law enforcement, but also in some larger companies where investigative reporters "would easily get kicked out by security guards". This appears to be a systemic problem across the US society.

Youngsters, who are the hope and the future of humanity, should always be cherished and protected. That is why the overwhelming majority of UN member states have agreed to protect children from heavy labor and enshrined their rights in international law. It is unacceptable that so many tragedies of child labor are still happening in the US today.

As UN members assemble in the Place des Nations for the 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council, the issue of child labor in the US must be reviewed and those liable must be held accountable.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Xinhua News, Global Times, China Daily, CGTN etc. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

If you have a specific expertise, or would like to share your thought about our stories, then send us your writings at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.


Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349