Child Labor

October 21, 2009

Some interesting speculation and historical revisionism from VoxEu:

The effects of international [child-labour] interventions on developing countries today stand in sharp contrast to the situation in which child-labour laws were passed in Western Europe in the nineteenth century. In Europe, comprehensive child-labour restrictions were adopted precisely when children were moving from the family farm and workshop into formal employment in mills, mines, and factories, where they worked alongside adults. It was this direct competition between adult workers and children that motivated unions to oppose child labour.
International interventions in developing countries today shift working children instead from formal employment back to the informal sector, undermining prospects for political reform. Thus, international policies aimed at reducing child labour may achieve the opposite of their intended effect.

In other words, if you want child-labor law reform to succeed in developing countries, give the relevant political groups an incentive to care, i.e. “These kids are stealing our jobs!”

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