Advantages And Disadvantages Of Child Labor: Economic Benefits And Human Rights

Child Labor: A Controversial Topic

When it comes to child exploitation, almost everyone has different views, yet there are things that most people agree are right and wrong. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights tells us the rights that everyone has in the workplace. In simple terms, these are the rights to work in good conditions, with equal pay for equal work, and the right to form and join unions (“Universal”). The Convention on the Rights of the Child goes into more detail regarding the rights of working children. What this document says about toiling in sweatshops is considered to be, by a lot of people, obvious. The CRC states that children have the right to relax and play and to protection from harmful activity (“Convention”).

The Pros and Cons of Child Labor

Because these two documents are not the law, they are not always followed. Around the world, there are sweatshops where adults and children endure terrible working conditions for as little as 30 cents an hour. There are people, mainly those that are benefited from cheap labor, that are pro sweatshops, and there are others that are against the idea. People that have positions of power in companies such as H&M, Gap, Puma, and Adidas (companies that are known to have products made in sweatshops) will make the point that sweatshops benefit everyone with cheaper clothes and a better economy (Larson). The point is also made that even 30 cents an hour is better than no job at all (Blattman). People that believe child labor in sweatshops is wrong will bring up the “obvious” points; that practically torturing people with long hours, bad wages, and harsh conditions, often not giving them a chance to change anything, is wrong (“Universal”).

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Benefits of Child Labor: The Economic Perspective

For both sides, there are multiple things that need to be considered, how sweatshops affect these workers, the economy, consumers, etc. Most people would agree that this cheap labor benefits the economy and consumers but that they are bad for the workers. Joan Robinson, an economist, disagrees. She says that “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.” Robinson is saying that, yes, the conditions are bad, but to some of the people that will willingly take these jobs, it is better than having no job at all (Blattman). An example of this is a sweatshop in China. When Kathie Lee Gifford’s clothing line for Walmart cut all ties with them, the workers were outraged. They needed the economic benefits (Wong).

Child Labor: Balancing Rights and Economy

It is important to think about those that choose these jobs, but what about those that do not? An example of this is Iqbal Masih. He was around six years old when his mother needed a loan from a carpet company. In exchange, Iqbal Masih was forced to work. He managed to escape but was later assassinated (Bergmar). He is just one of many people that are unable to leave terrible jobs. It is unfair to say that the jobs these people have are better than unemployment when they are not given the opportunity to leave. Disregarding conditions and unwanted employment, there is another case that can be made for sweatshops. People have cited sweatshops as a necessary part of modernization. “Jeffrey D. Sachs of Harvard and Paul Krugman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have asserted that sweatshop manufacturing … are an essential preliminary move toward economic prosperity in developing countries” (Wong). This proves that not only does this cheap, often child labor benefit the economy in the countries that have most of the consumers, but the countries where these sweatshops are located.

All of the benefits and disadvantages are taken into consideration. There is no way to say what is wrong, what is right, and if sweatshops are good or bad. The only way to follow the rights outlined in the CRC and UDHR while maintaining a better economy is to keep the idea but change the rules. While conditions and pay are, for the most part, debatable, both of these two documents make clear that child labor takes away children’s rights. The only way to make sure everyone has these basic human rights is to have a comprehensive set of laws, not just an idea of what is right. Children under the age of 13 shouldn’t be allowed to work, unwanted labor should never be allowed, and conditions should always be fair. If rules such as these are always followed, all rights listed in the UDHR and the CRC will be followed, but there will still be benefits for the workers and for the economy.

Works Cited

  1. Bergmar, Magnus. ‘Iqbal Masih.’ Worlds Childrens Prize, Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
  2. Blattman, Christopher, and Stefan Dercon. ‘Do Sweatshops Lift Workers out of Poverty?’ The New York Times, 28 Apr. 2017, p. NA(L). Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
  3. Clark, J.R., and Benjamin Powell. ‘Sweatshop Working Conditions and Employee Welfare: Say It Ain’t Sew.’ Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 55, no. 2, June 2013, p. 343+. Global Issues in Context, Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
  4. ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child.’ OHCHR, UN General Assembly, 23 Oct. 2018, Accessed 23 Oct. 2018.
  5. ‘Human Trafficking.’ Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Detroit, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 19 Oct. 2018.
  6. Iqbal, Muzaffar. ‘The Qur’an and Its Disbelievers.’ Islam & Science, vol. 7, no. 2, Winter 2009, p. 87+. Global Issues in Context, Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
  7. Larson, Christina. ‘Closing the Factory Doors: For Two Centuries, Countries Have Used Low-wage Labor to Climb out of Poverty. What Will Happen When Robots Take Those Jobs?’ Foreign Policy, no. 229, July 2018, p. 32+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 24 Oct. 2018.
  8. Steffens, Bradley. Human Rights in Focus: Torture. Human Rights in Focus: Torture, 2018. SIRS Issues Researcher,

    ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ UN, UN General Assembly, 23 Oct. 2018, Accessed 23 Oct. 2018.

  9. Wong, Annabelle, and Benjamin Adam Schorr. ‘Two Faces of Economic Development: The Ethical Controversy Surrounding U.S.-Related Sweatshops in Developing Asian Countries.’ Global Ethics Network, 2018, Accessed 28 Oct. 2018.

O Brother Where Art Thou And Odyssey Parallels: Exploring Homer’s Mystique

The Enigmatic Existence of Homer

There are many influential writers. Writers like Shakespeare, William Faulkner, and Emily Dickinson. But the further back you go, the more influential the writers are. They have made paths for our education and culture. Homer is one of these writers. He has had a significant impact on our education and culture with his poems, the Iliad, and the Odyssey. Although most historians agree that Homer was very influential, many doubt his existence.

There is a lot we don’t know about Homer, which causes people to doubt his existence, so much so it is considered one of the greatest literary mysteries, according to Biography. The Homeric question was created by Friedrich August Wolf, and it is whether Homer was a real person or not (Nicolson 41). Many historians speculate there were multiple people who contributed to the writing of the Iliad and the Odyssey, others think he was a woman, and some even think he was the son of a goddess.

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Homer’s Life: Speculations and Reconstructions

His birth is placed around the 9th and 8th century BCE. Many historians placed his birth around the time of the Trojan Wars based on the accuracy of events in the Iliad. Others think he was born much later because of his poetic style. Herodotus placed him centuries before him, around 850 BCE.

The location of Homer’s birthplace is still not confirmed. It is speculated to be Ionia, based on the predominantly Ionic dialect used in the poems, although multiple cities have claimed to be his birthplace, including Smyrna, Ithaca, Thessaly, and Egypt (Nicolson 53). There are manuscripts that say he lived in Chios or on the island of Ios in the Cyclades. Scholars insist Homer was familiar with the plain of Troy due to the accuracy of the geography in the Iliad. Due to the local references in the Iliad, scholars have concluded the author must have lived in an East Aegean environment (Britannica).

Many people have tried to recreate Homer’s life. Historians believe he hinted at what his life was like through a character in the Odyssey, Demodokos. In the poem, Demodokos is a blind poet. People have used this character to determine what Homer looked like. They built statues with thick, curly hair, a beard, and blank eyes to represent his blindness. According to Why Homer Matters, “Homer” means “blind” in Greek and was most likely a name given to him after he became blind. His real name was Melesigenes (Nicolson 55).

Contrasting Theories: The Girl and The Son of Calliope

Due to the lack of information we have on him, historians and scholars have started to come up with their own theories about Homer. According to Why Homer Matters, Samuel Butler thought the author of the poems was a girl. She thought this because the writer was “so exquisitely right” in describing “every single one of [her] women” (Nicolson 52). She also thought the writer was a girl due to “girlish” mistakes made in the poems. One example is thinking a ship has a rudder at both ends in the Odyssey. This mistake is made twice in book 9, lines 483 and 540 (Nicolson 52)

Another theory made by Plutarch is Homer was the son of Calliope. Calliope is the muse of epic poetry and the goddess of song and eloquence (Theoi). In his book Parallel Lives, Plutarch says, “for you were not born of no mortal mother, but of Calliope.” He also says Homer was not born on earth, and his ancestors came from “great heaven” (Nicolson 54).

How Is “O Brother” Like “The Odyssey” and Homer’s Enduring Influence

The most common theory is the poems were written by different people. This theory is based on the difference in style and subtle differences in vocabulary between the two poems that indicate they were written a century apart. The way the poems were written also differs. According to Biography, the Iliad is credited to a poet at the height of his powers, while the Odyssey is credited to an elderly Homer. The genres also differ between the poems. The Iliad is a heroic story, while the Odyssey is picturesque.

Whether these theories are true or not, we can all agree whoever wrote these poems had a profound influence on Western culture. According to Britannica, the Iliad, and the Odyssey had a deep impact on the Renaissance culture of Italy and provided the basis of Greek education and culture throughout the classical age. Homer was very important to the Greeks and their culture because he included gods and goddesses, something that was very important to them, in his stories.

Homer’s poems are still influencing things today. They helped us understand what life and society were like during that time. They have also been the inspiration for books and movies like the Coen Brothers’ film, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and J.R.R Tolkien’s book, “The Fall of Gondolin.” In his book Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, Werner Jaeger says, “Plato tells us that in his time many believed that Homer was the educator of all of Greece. Since then, Homer’s Influence has spread far beyond the frontiers of Hellas [Greece]…” (Biography). According to Biography, Homer also influenced many writers after him, including Shakespeare, John Keats, Walt Whitman, and James Joyce, with his use of similes and metaphors.

In conclusion, we will never truly know whether Homer existed or not due to the lack of information we have on him. One thing we do know is the impact his poems had on our education and culture. So, while we may never know the truth about Homer, his impact will never be forgotten.

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