Should we actually be Encouraging Child Labour?

March 24, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

In an article in The New York Times and in a follow-up post on the Economix blog, Eduardo Porter showed why opposing child labour might be counter-productive. Highlights of his argument include:

  • The best cure to poverty is economic development. By opposing child labour in your products, activists are saying that they value the satisfaction they get from being ‘moral’ more than the suffering this causes by removing from poor the chance to escape poverty.
  • Countries that have received the most multi-national investment have reduced poverty and child-labour the most. China which has attracted a lot of foreign investment has decreased its poverty rate by more than 17%. Bangladesh which has been ignored by foreigners has not seen its poverty rate change.
  • Even if companies convince their third-world subcontractors to improve working conditions, the costs are usually borne by the subcontractors themselves – forcing them to decrease already thin margins.
  • Most children don’t work in manufacturing anyway. They work in dangerous industries such as carpet making. If they’re kicked out of factories then they have no choice but to work in places that are potentially deadly.

To read more specific statistics behind the argument, and why trying to get Apple to change its labour practices might not be a bad idea after all, check out the source links.

Source: New York Times, Economix