Child labour? It's great

The Daily Mail Lite, aka Metro, writes on page eight to say that Dickens had it all wrong and that, in fact, child labourers in Victorian England were happy little scamps. Admittedly, they were, according to a report of the time, in "evident poverty, want of clothing and, in many cases, sufficient food" and were paid the princely sum of "four shillings a week - equivalent to about £8.82 today".

Three points. The Metro, unsurprisingly, is rubbish journalism; they do not even mention the possibility that there were problems with the surveys carried out in the 1840s that, despite a lack of sufficient food in many cases found children working in factories to be happy. Perhaps they were even made to say that to keep their jobs. Yes, the article says they were interviewed away from their bosses, but an overworked, undernourished child is unlikely to be in a position to resist.

Child labour is a real problem. "Light-hearted" articles like this serve to trivialise the problem and give people glasses rose-tinted enough to buy the products that keep the trade going.

The Metro is given away to commuters in London; it is not, though, anything other than a rag with gossip and celebrity news. It has no competition in the free, morning market and so has no impetus to do anything that provide news as cheaply as possible.

I think the article may be causing some embarrasment to Metro; it doesn't appear on their website.


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