Journal Article

Workers and helpers: perspectives on children's labour 1899-1999

T Newman

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 30, issue 3, pages 323-338
Published in print June 2000 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online June 2000 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Workers and helpers: perspectives on children's labour 1899-1999

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Children's work has become, over the last century, proscribed by law and custom. Both in domestic and external settings, labour is held to damage the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of children. Adults who collude in or tolerate children's labour are subject to judicial penalties and moral condemnation. The social history of childhood proposes an upwards temporal incline from barbarity to humanity. Children's exclusion from the labour market is a key factor in this trajectory. Work by children, including care for siblings and parents, has become part of the same moral universe as child abuse. It is proposed here that this proposition may be applied too indiscriminately and, furthermore, that condemnation of children's labour is associated with wider social needs and has not arisen solely as a result of philanthropy. The past, it is suggested, has been disproportionately demonized, partly in order to promote certain political goals. While this does not imply that child labour, external or domestic, is unproblematic, it is argued that the same historic mechanisms which have resulted in the distortion of children's labour experience have the capacity to bias our understanding of contemporary work undertaken by children.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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