With so much din and clamour over seafarers’ rights, many people could be forgetting that the exploitation of children is a far greater problem. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 152 million are victims of child labour worldwide (see the ILO facts and figures here). The following 19th-century paintings should serve as a Labour Day reminder of this ugly ever-present reality.

Paper Boy, undetermined date
Carl Erik Törner (Swedish, 1862–1911)
Source: Bukowskis auction house via Wikimedia Commons

The world is more cruel to children than to seafarers. The latter may be abandoned at sea by shipowners and their earnings pocketed by manning agents. But child labourers are being robbed of their childhood, which no one can ever restore.

La nena obrera (The Working Girl), 1882
Joan Planella i Rodríguez (Catalan, 1849–1910)
Museu d’Història de Catalunya
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today, child workers in the developing world produce various goods that Western consumers may not know were made by small, calloused hands. They are the real invisible working class.

A Martyr or The Violette Merchant, circa 1865
Fernand Pelez (French, 1843–1913)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ship officers grumble about shipboard fatigue and stress due to mounting regulations and paperwork. But what is that compared with what childen have to contend with as they eke out a living on the streets?

~ Barista Uno

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