What are the ethical theories that can be used against using child labour?

Expert Answers
sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theory of Least Harm contradicts child labor.  Children who are working are not able to get an appropriate education, and are at greater health risks.  This creates harm not only for the child, but for society as a whole.  Uneducated and unhealthy children, who then become uneducated and unhealthy adults, are likely to continue the cycle of poverty.

Child labor also goes against a Respect for Autonomy.  "This principle states that an ethical theory should allow people to reign over themselves and to be able to make decisions that apply to their lives."  We can not assume that children in the work force have reign over themselves or are making the decisions that apply to their lives.  Child labor is the result of coercion or severe economic hardship and thus squashes free will.

Most of all, child labor goes against the Rights theory.  This states that all members of a society have certain rights set forth by that society.  In most societies around the globe, it has been clearly established that children have the right to childhood - a period of time in which they are nourished, educated, and given the proper conditions in which thrive.  Child labor does not provide these conditions.

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several ethical arguments that can be made against allowing the use of child labor. One argument is that kids have the right to be kids. Children should be able to enjoy the opportunity to be free from having work obligations. They most likely will be working most of their adult life. Children should have the freedom to enjoy life, play, and be carefree. They will not be able to do this for most of their adult life.

Child labor also leads to the exploitation of children. Kids who are working in factories are often working very long hours for very low pay. These jobs often are physically demanding, which prevents their bodies from developing properly. Many times, the conditions in these factories are very dangerous. This may put their safety in jeopardy. Health issues may also arise because of the excessive work these kids are doing at a very young age.

When children are working, they are not getting an education. This likely will deny them the right to learn, grow, and provide a better life for themselves. Without an education, the likelihood of improving one’s condition in life diminishes greatly.