Plzeňské sympozia

Jiří Pokorný

Child Labour

pp. 90–96 (Czech), Summary pp. 97 (English)

The engagement of children in the working process is a phenomenon that has existed from time immemorial. So long as it has been synonymous with ways of teaching children and expanding their knowledge of the world around them, it has constituted a natural component of children’s lives. Where, however, children have come to be overloaded by menial chores, and this has moreover been coupled with insufficient pay as well as with obstacles being posed thereby to their school attendance, it has turned into a grave social evil. It is exactly this category of child labour that is dealt with by the author of this essay. He notes that of all forms of money earning, children were most frequently involved in begging. Adult beggars and vagrants, and naturally their children as well, were also among the most readily available first recruits for work in newly established manufactories. Children in particular came to be employed there in large numbers (amounting to up to 30 percent of workforce). In an extreme case, a uniquely “children’s” manufactory was set up in Bělá pod Bezdězem in 1765. Actually, the engagement of children in industrial work happened to comply with the theories of Rationalist educators tending to regard as the most frightful danger the trappings of idleness. On the other hand, the same Age of Enlightenment also gave rise to early attempts at introducing a set of rules into the sphere of child labour, obliging employers to contribute a certain amount of care for the youngest members of their workforce. These aspirations, associated with the person of the Emperor Joseph II, were carried on all through the period before March 1848; some of the crucial issues included the question of the age from which children were to be eligible for factory work, and that of the maximum length of their daily working shift. Even staunch liberals, who were otherwise firmly convinced that the contract between employer and employee was solely a matter of two equal parties, eventually arrived at taking an exception from the rule in the case of children. Nonetheless, this school of opinion did not assert itself until the 1880s. Even then, to be sure, more than a few poor families still proved unable to do without their children’s (money-earning) work. As a widespread dictum of the time had it, children were “the poor man’s capital.”

Web vytvořilo studio Liquid Design, v případě potřeby navštivte stránku s technickými informacemi
design by Bedřich Vémola