Enfance perdue

Les cris des enfants qui travaillent résonnent dans le monde entier. L'Organisation internationale du travail (OIT) estime que 90 millions d'enfants âgés de huit à quinze ans font partie de la population active des pays en voie de développement ; le chiffre est encore plus élevé dans les autres pays. Ces enfants travaillent souvent dans des conditions dangereuses en manipulant des produits chimiques toxiques, en inhalant des vapeurs nocives et en tirant des poids excessifs. Ils sont généralement surchargés de travail, sous-alimentés et sous-payés... s'ils sont payés.

Bien que de nombreux pays aient promulgué des lois interdisant l'insertion (et l'abus d'insertion) d'enfants dans la population active, l'optimisme n'est pas de mise lorsque l'on évoque les conditions dans lesquelles travaillent ces enfants. Cette conclusion résulte d'un fait indéniable : les familles des enfants qui travaillent le plus dépendent de leurs salaires pour survivre.

Parce que le travail des enfants est synonyme de travail bon marché , les jeunes sont souvent les plus susceptibles d'être employés dans des économies en voie de développement en proie à la récession. Le directeur d'une entreprise de textile de moyenne envergure implantée au Bengladesh admet sans hésitation que 70 % de ses employés sont âgés entre 13 et 17 ans. « Ils ont le même rendement que les adultes, indique-t-il, mais pour un salaire bien moindre. »

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