What’s Wrong With the Lucrative Child Modeling Industry?

Earlier in April, a Chinese child model was beaten up by her parents for disobedience. The video was recorded by a bystander who subsequently posted it online. The parents’ abusive attitude on their child triggered the public’s anger. According to the video, the young child got kicked by her mother and did not react after getting beaten up.

The mother later issued an apology to the public, claiming that it was never her intention to hurt her child and she loves her child. Yet netizens are not showing any signs of forgiveness. The Weibo apologizing for the action received more than 63,000 comments, and most of them are derogatory and negative. Weibo users are calling the parents ‘useless creatures’ who rely on the kid to make a fortune. And some say they would want to kick the parents in the butt.

According to Chinese State Media CCTV.com, the child model just turned 3 years old earlier this year, and has been working in the child modeling businesses for almost 6 months. While most 2 to 3-year-old children are relying on their parents’ care and support to grow up, the child model here, nicknamed Niuniu, is already starting to make a big fortune. The family resides in Huzhou City in China’s eastern coastal province of Zhejiang. Famous for E-commerce and clothing businesses, the city has many opportunities for child modeling to boost sales for their products online. On average, the sellers would pay 80 to 150 yuan for a set of outfit, offering the child models the potential to earn six figures, if not seven, per year.

It is surely a lucrative business, but the legality of its nature remains in question. Chinese employment law prohibits individuals under the age of 16 to be in the workforce. And the fact that NiuNiu is getting paid for her modeling work may have legal concerns. And Niuniu is not the only child who is in the child modeling business. According to Chinese media Beijing News, thousands of children are coming into the city to become child model for the huge profits waiting ahead. An experienced child model could finish 15 sets of cloth in one hour, granting the family a 1200 yuan hourly rate. When you earn more than 100 US Dollars per hour (and more likely, after tax), you are definitely a high-income individual by all measurements.

Yet for child models, there are more ethic and moral issues that are yet to be discussed. It is hard to determine whether it is the will of the child or their parents’ when it comes to taking job assignments. Furthermore, the income generated by children are definitely going into the pockets of their parents, financial accountability is then another issue that the parents may not have a good answer to.

It is clear that beating up your child is not right. However, despite having legislation in place, Niuniu’s parents may not be receiving any forms of legal punishments for their wrongdoings. In other developed countries, Niuniu’s parents may have already lost the custody to their child, but while in China, it may not be the case on most occasions.

According to Chinese Women Newspaper, China has yet to legislate on paid work related to individuals under the age of 16. There are no legal restrictions on children’s participating in commercial activities, such as child modeling. This remains to be in a legal grey area that has yet to have a definitive ruling.

While the public became angry about the poor treatment and abusive attitudes that Niuniu’s parents have on the 3-year-old girl, the video revealed an industry that has little regulation and ethic review. The Chinese government should consider filling the loopholes that exist in the industry to ensure the well-being of the children, and the proper business practices required to ensure the rights for all individuals involved in the industry.

Featured photo credit to mini.eastday.com