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Victorian Child Labour

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Date added: 19-04-15


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Throughout the 19th century, many kids in England were being overworked and put in dangerous situations that could have potentially cost them their lives. Kids were not being right and were having to sacrifice their education so companies could earn a better profit.

Child Labour is a well-known term for kids who are worked too hard for their age without much, or no, pay. Broadly speaking, the term child labour is defined as the employment of children in any work that deprives them of their childhood and dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development(Ortin-Ospina). During the 19th century, the new factories and mines were eager to find workers and had simple task that they believed were easy enough to be done by children. This gave companies an idea, they could hire children to do the work by paying them less than an adult. Companies could easily discipline children and would be much cheaper to hire (Child Labour). Kids would start to work some at the age of five or six in agriculture gangs or places far away from their homes. Some children would have to work in the worst forms of child labour for less than minimum wage (Ortin-Ospina). Sometimes you may even find more children working in an area than adults. Because of their size and youthful energy there were jobs that children performed as good or even better than adults (Victorian Child Labour).

A majority of kids were hired to work for these low prices. About 120 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 work full-time and another 130 million work park time (The Paradox). The National Archives states that around 49% of the workforce was under 20 in the year 1821(Child Labour).

The working conditions that these kids had to work through were horrible. The conditions were so bad that kids were in constant fear of being injured or having their life taken; cave-ins, explosions. The children had to perform multiple different jobs such as coal mining, textile mills, and even prostitution. They would work around fourteen hour days starting and 6 am and working until around 8 pm. They also only made a fraction of what adults made, even though they were worked hareder. Being forced long hours with health risking conditions should have never been allowed. During most of these jobs, health violations made it extremely dangerous. Emma Griffin states in her Article, Child Labour, that, All children laboured under the same disadvantages, though, working for very low pay, performing work that was dirty and dangerous, and usually working long hours as well.(Griffin). Airways in mines were thick due to the or ventilation, lose eyesight from the strain of eyes of trying to see because the mines were so dark, and some even formed spine deformation from having to walk being stooped over constantly (Victorian Child Labour). Kids were not protected from their employers and older co-workers (Griffin). There was a chance of kids being beaten up if they had made a mistake, were late, or fell asleep (Victorian Child Labour).

The risk of having an accident while working was very high and in Europe in 1825 28.25% of kids ten to thirteen had an incident (Ortin-Ospina). One of the biggest cases that shows of the dangerous of the factories was the case of Martha Appelton in 1859. Martha was thirteen and hired to pick up loose cotten from under the machine. One day, Martha had fainted while doing her work and her hand got caught in an unguarded machine. From this accidnet, all her fingers were sliced off and she ended up being fired for no longer able to work well (Child Labout). Although most parents knew what was going on in the factories there was nothing they could do about it because they needed the money. Roger Langon is an example of this; after his parents found out that he was nearly killed by his drunk coworker, they realized there was nothing they could do because all the other parish's were full and they needed the money (Griffin).

While all these kids were working full time jobs, they were not able to recieve an education. Kids were working fourteen hour days, then having to come home to help their parents out at home, then sleep, and do it all again. There was not a few minutes left in the day for them to learn a quick thing. During this century work was valued over education immensly. Although, during the end of the 19th century people started to realize that they wer not little adults and needed to get an education as well (Child Labour). In countries where children tend to work longer hours, it is more common that working children remain out of school (Ortin-Ospina). Laws started to be made to ensure that children would still be recieving and education while working. After 1867 a law was made that determined that no factory could hire a kid under the age of eight and any kid from the age of eight to thirteen were required to recieve ten hours of education a week (Child Labour).

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