Childhood is a golden age, a time for nurturing, developing, being educated, laying sturdy foundations for a productive adulthood, or so we with comfortable lives assume. But many children endure crippling poverty, stultifying physical, emotional, intellectual and social disadvantages, and exhausting work. Of the estimated 250 million children aged between five and fourteen years who are employed world-wide, almost half are employed full time and most live in developing nations: 61 per cent in Asia, 32 per cent in Africa and 7 per cent in Latin America. Considerable as they are, these figures still underestimate the number of children working in unregistered, unregulated, unsafe and hazardous workplaces. Young children bonded in repayment of parental debt, 'sold into the carpet industry and tied to their looms for twelve or more hours a day, or sold or lured into the sex industry' are shocking examples of blighted childhood. Not only do these experiences damage children's mental and physical health, but also deny developing nations a prospective generation of educated adults. Poverty is thus perpetuated.
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