The Industrial Revolution caused great changes in the people’s way of life, especially children s lives. By the early 1800’s, most of the British people knew they were in the mist of a nationwide economic and social revolution. Educational and political privileges, which once had belonged to the upper class, spread to the growing middle class. Some workers were replaced by machines while others found a new job opportunities working with machinery. Both workers and employers had a cold and impersonal relationship. Most workers lived and worked in extremely harsh conditions in the ever expanding industrial cities.
Under the domestic system, many employers had a close relationship with their workers and felt some responsibility for them. However, such relationships became impossible in the large factories of the Industrial Revolution. Industrialists employed many workers and could not deal with them personally. The average working day was between twelve to fourteen hours. Workers worked six days a week, that includes men, women, and small children. In the factories machines made workers work faster and harder without rest. Jobs became specialized and the work monotonous.
Factory wages were low, most factory owners kept the wages low deliberately. Women and children worked as unskilled laborers and made only a small fraction of the men’s already low wages. Children under ten years of age were often deformed or crippled by unsafe machines.
Most factory workers, like other types of workers, were desperately poor and could not read or write, giving them no hope of a better life. Housing in the growing factory cities could not keep up with the migration of workers from rural areas. Severe overcrowding resulted, and many people lived in extremely unsanitary conditions that led to outbreaks of diseases.
Since the ancient times, Children have worked to help support their families when they are in need, especially on farms. Child labour did not have any major problems until the factory systems of labour began.
During the 17OO’s and the 18OO’s many businesses in Britain began to hire children. Children worked for lower wages than adults, and were not so likely to cause labour troubles. Factory owners wanted to use their small, nimble fingers for tending machines. Children worked for low pay in dirty, poorly, dimly lit factories, mills, and mines. They often performed jobs that really required adult strength. Many children helped unemployed parents and orphans were pressed into labour. These similar conditions soon spread to the United States during the 18OO’s.
Child workers were deprive of the chance of an education leaving the only thing they could do, work in the factories, mills or mines. Uneducated the children had little chance to better themselves for a better life.
In textile factories much of the work was so easy children could easily do it quite well. A typical child worker was called “piecers” who joined any threads that broke, and “scavengers” were those who cleaned the floors under and around the machines.
Enemies of the factories complained that the buildings were over-heated, stuffy and unsanitary. There were also stories of dangerous machinery causing dreadful accidents, and accusations of hideous brutality. Supporters of the factories said that the factories were healthier than the children’s own homes, that the work was easy and there was little or no cruelty. The truth was that there was good mills and bad mills but at least two evils were clear. One was the length of the working day, and the other was the employment of pauper apprentices.
At the height of the boom, mills could work for sixteen hours a day and children had to keep the adults of the company. Twelve hours was not uncommon and ten hours or less was reckoned short time. However good the factory, hours like these were bond to damage someone health.
The employment of pauper apprentices came about the early days of cotton spinning when water was the only source of power. Many mills were remote valleys and it was impossible to persuade people to live there. Employers took orphan children from the workhouses in big cities, undertaking to feed, clothe and house them. In return the children had to work without wages until they were twenty one years old. They did not learn any skills so the term “apprenticeship” was just a polite word for “slavery.”
In the coal mines women and children were responsible for bringing the coal to the surface. They tugged and pushed it along galleries to the bottom of the shaft and in some mines even carried it up ladders. In larger mines with ventilation systems children as young as five worked as “trappers”. Doors were needed to make sure the air circulated through all the workings and trappers opened and closed them as the coal came through.
Young miners were usually enough, but frequently suffered injuries. However, what shocked Victorians just as much were the moral dangers. Hewers, the men who worked down in the mines, found their work hot and used to strip, so that women and girls were working with naked men.
There was work for children in almost every industry. Most of the jobs required the children in a the home or in workshops. In most cases the child was worse off with the parents than they were in the cotton mills. Finally in 1842 a report was written called the Royal Commission Report which investigated, the distressing stories of the children working in the industry. One of the worst cases was in the medal trades of the Black Country. Here the children helped to make nails, chains, and locks. They slaved away in abominable little workshops, were malnourished, badly clothed and subjected to every sort of cruelty.