9 Terrible Jobs Children Were Forced To Do Throughout History

Published June 12th, 2021 - 05:00 GMT

Most adults today have a story about a horrible job they held as a kid, but as bad as they thought it might have been, the odds are it wasn’t nearly as awful as what children were obliged to do in the past. And despite the international and local laws that ban child labour and protect children’s rights, it's heartbreaking to know that a total of 152 million children – 64 million girls and 88 million boys – are in child labor globally, according to ILO.

On World Day Against Child Labour, we list 9 daunting jobs that children were forced to do throughout history:

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1. Farming

1. Farming: Unfortunately nowadays children are still expected to take part on family-owned farms, but the situation was much worse in the past where they were expected to even work on strangers’ farms in exchange for almost nothing, while being offered little leniency.

2. Apprenticeships

2. Apprenticeships: A boy's apprenticeships usually begin between the ages of ten and fourteen. The work was arduous for the children, especially the employer was given full powers in dealing with his young students, including punishment and beatings.

3. Cannery Worker

3. Cannery Worker: Working in canning factories means standing long hours in the winter to cut, package and transport fish and other foods. Many children were employed in such jobs by people who thought they would provide a better future for children by offering them work in extremely difficult economic conditions.

4. Bootblack (Shoeshine Boy)

4. Bootblack (Shoeshine Boy): A job like this would hardly give a child money to live with dignity. Seven days a week, children work under any weather for a few cents thrown at them by men with dirty shoes.

5. Cotton Mill Worker

5. Cotton Mill Worker: The invention of the cotton gin and a variety of other mechanical devices were a great boon in the post-slavery West. The new machines were faster and more accurate than humans, but were very sharp and more lethal. And there was a real risk that the worker would lose a limb at the very least if he did not lose his life due to these dangerous machines. And because most of the workers were children, accidents were very frequent.

6. Soldier

6. Soldier: We can trace this phenomena (children in military) back to ancient times when the Romans regularly hired boys as young as fourteen for the general army. And although there are international laws prohibiting the use of children in militaries, there are still children out there that are being used in battles and wars.

7. Prostitute

7. Prostitute: Child prostitution is most frequently associated with girls but it is equally common and harmful amongst boys. Unfortunately, child trafficking is still a major issue until this day and there are international forces that are trying to combat it.

8. Chimney Sweep

8. Chimney Sweep: Death was a common risk that was frequently repeated by children of chimneys. This disastrous act was forced on children only because of their small body size and the proportion of the size of the chimney filled with smoke and black soot.

9. Mine Worker

9. Mine Worker: Children of mines work in difficult conditions from the hours of dawn until five every day. They are usually asked to perform jobs that adults may not want to do like dragging carts, opening and closing doors.

1. Farming
2. Apprenticeships
3. Cannery Worker
4. Bootblack (Shoeshine Boy)
5. Cotton Mill Worker
6. Soldier
7. Prostitute
8. Chimney Sweep
9. Mine Worker
1. Farming
1. Farming: Unfortunately nowadays children are still expected to take part on family-owned farms, but the situation was much worse in the past where they were expected to even work on strangers’ farms in exchange for almost nothing, while being offered little leniency.
2. Apprenticeships
2. Apprenticeships: A boy's apprenticeships usually begin between the ages of ten and fourteen. The work was arduous for the children, especially the employer was given full powers in dealing with his young students, including punishment and beatings.
3. Cannery Worker
3. Cannery Worker: Working in canning factories means standing long hours in the winter to cut, package and transport fish and other foods. Many children were employed in such jobs by people who thought they would provide a better future for children by offering them work in extremely difficult economic conditions.
4. Bootblack (Shoeshine Boy)
4. Bootblack (Shoeshine Boy): A job like this would hardly give a child money to live with dignity. Seven days a week, children work under any weather for a few cents thrown at them by men with dirty shoes.
5. Cotton Mill Worker
5. Cotton Mill Worker: The invention of the cotton gin and a variety of other mechanical devices were a great boon in the post-slavery West. The new machines were faster and more accurate than humans, but were very sharp and more lethal. And there was a real risk that the worker would lose a limb at the very least if he did not lose his life due to these dangerous machines. And because most of the workers were children, accidents were very frequent.
6. Soldier
6. Soldier: We can trace this phenomena (children in military) back to ancient times when the Romans regularly hired boys as young as fourteen for the general army. And although there are international laws prohibiting the use of children in militaries, there are still children out there that are being used in battles and wars.
7. Prostitute
7. Prostitute: Child prostitution is most frequently associated with girls but it is equally common and harmful amongst boys. Unfortunately, child trafficking is still a major issue until this day and there are international forces that are trying to combat it.
8. Chimney Sweep
8. Chimney Sweep: Death was a common risk that was frequently repeated by children of chimneys. This disastrous act was forced on children only because of their small body size and the proportion of the size of the chimney filled with smoke and black soot.
9. Mine Worker
9. Mine Worker: Children of mines work in difficult conditions from the hours of dawn until five every day. They are usually asked to perform jobs that adults may not want to do like dragging carts, opening and closing doors.