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Monday, August 8, 2011

When Child Labor is Accepted as a Chore

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The two boys are Carlo and Cesar (not their real names). They are twins both eight years old and I usually see them with their improvised cart as they sell sandok- a kitchen utensil made of wood and some bamboo alkansya- a coin chest.

I sympathize with these types of children and who wouldn’t? The two boys should be in school- studying and playing. They should be enjoying the benefits of being a child, not on the street- basking under the heat of the sun while asking everyone to buy their merchandize.

As an initial reaction, like most people would have, I thought of the boys’ parents as irresponsible. Then again, there are acceptable reasons like the two boys could already be orphans or that their parents are incapable for work.

My boss had taken interest in buying some sandok, so I took the liberty of making some inquiries.

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The boys’ parents are still living and in good health. While the father is a farmer, the mother is normally at home, taking care of their little siblings. They are nine brothers and sisters in the family. Their eldest is about sixteen, already working in the field with the father.  The twins told me that the eldest is in his second year in high school but because of financial problems, their parents decided to stop his education for a while. Three of their sisters are also in high school; three of them (the twins included) are in elementary school. They have a toddler and the youngest is still two months old.

Child labor defined

We normally understand child labor as kids doing harsh job in unlikely places. We hear this harassment in news – children working in mines or those in factories manufacturing firecrackers, some unforgivable acts, especially when their health and their very lives had already been affected or worst, taken.

Household chores are exempted from child labor but when kids are involved in family business – their education and others privileges affected, this becomes child labor.

An act of survival

Over population and poverty are some challenges in every country. People tend to find other source of income just to survive. The sad thing about it is their children becoming involved and affected.

Cesar and Carlo are some of the kids who have seen peddling as a chore. Normally, children are given errands as washing the dishes, doing beds or watering plants but these two, they have to roam the street everyday to help their parents support the rest of the family. They are usually deprived of playtime and more alarmingly, they have lost interest in going to school.

Children are the future. Chores shape them into responsible people. But child labor is a different thing. It robs them of their youth and gives them a responsibility that they wouldn’t handle. Children are to take care of and they should live their life as they should. After all being a child is not forever, best that they enjoy it.

Image by the author

However considering poverty and some different sad cases, children cannot have the said opportunities. The two boys are still lucky though. They have their parents love and we see worse cases of child labor everyday from all around the globe. I think involving kids with the family’s financial problem is a tough option for the parents. But as the mother of these two boys’ reasoned, ‘It’s just being practical! It is matter of survival- no toil, no food.’

The boys’ so called chore is not a choice.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_labou
  2. http://www.unicef.org/protection/index_childlabour. 
  3. htmlhttp://www.childprotection.org.ph/whatshappening/whtbits7_decjanfeb04.html 
  4. http://www.dol.gov/ilab/media/reports/iclp/Advancing1/html/philippines.html
Original article published at Triond (August 8, 2010)