Tuesday, December 20, 2011

child labor

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Instead of aiming at abolishing child labor, should policy makers look for alternative


approaches. Parents feel compelled to send their children to work as a means of survival.


Although not immediately apparent, a simple ban on child labor does not prove effective


in ridding of it. Therefore, integrative efforts should be made in conjunction with


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eliminating child labor. Instead of waiting for the natural economic growth to slowly


remove child labor, the government and policy makers may intervene by offering


incentives. Integrative policies include improved schooling, trade union involvement,


school meals, and income subsidies. To find alternative means of addressing child labor


where it prevails on a larger scale after establishing it as the perpetrator of such maladies


as reduced adult wages, adult unemployment, and negative impact on human capital.


Child Labor is a prevalent problem throughout the world especially in developing


countries. Children work for a variety of reasons, the most important being poverty and


the induced pressure upon them to escape from this plight. Though children are not well


paid, they still serve as major contributors to family income in developing countries.


Schooling problems also contribute to child labor, whether it be the inaccessibility of


schools or the lack of quality education which spurs parents to enter their children in


more profitable pursuits. Traditional factors such as rigid cultural and social roles in


certain countries further limit educational attainment and increase child labor.


Denying the right of education and the possibility to achieve complete physical


and psychological development, child labor serves as a source of exploitation and abuse.


In my definition of child labor throughout this paper, a child qualifies as a laborer if the


child performs economic activity on a regular basis that provides output for the market.


Since numbers are often underreported, determining the actual prevalence of child


labor exhibits problems. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated in 15


that around 50 million children between the ages of five and fourteen years old work for


a salary or wage in the world.1 10 million of those counted worked full time. Certain


geographical areas demonstrate higher child participation rates than others. The above


figure relates only to full-time child labor, estimates would rise if part-time child labor


were included. For instance in 10, Europe shows a .10% rate, Latin America and


Caribbean with 11.%, Asia follows with a 15.1% rate and Africa with the highest rate


of 7.87%. Many of these children work in dangerous occupations, such as agriculture


or factories. Over 70% of children work in agriculture, hunting, forestry, and fishing. The


second highest sector in terms of the percentage of child workers is manufacturing with


8.%. Wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels have the same percentage as


manufacturing.


However, the informal economy conceals many unaccounted child laborers. From


small businesses to micro-enterprises, unsafe working conditions, low productivity,


minimal returns to investment and low to no wages all characterize informal work.


The ILO reports of the informal economy as The expanding and increasingly diverse


group of workers and enterprises in both the rural and urban areas operating


informally,they share one important characteristic they are not recognized or


protected under the legal and regulatory frameworks. Informal workers and


entrepreneurs are characterized by a high degree of vulnerability.


This type of economy accounts for the most child laborers, especially due to its


ability to spillover into other economic sectors. For instance, an organized commercial


agricultural estate may form an agreement for some production by a smaller family farm


or a multinational corporation may contract materials from small workshops or families


who work at home. Overall, child labor does not help alleviate poverty in developing


countries but actually helps perpetuate it.


As we have seen a factor causing child labor is low wages and low adult wages


serve as a factor in perpetuating poverty. Before exploring the causal link of child labor


and adult wage reduction, one must first explore the reasons for children in the labor


market instead of adults. On the demand side, employers assert that children possess


productivity traits that adults lack, such as nimble fingers. On the supply side, the parent


may believe that due to lack of adult jobs or low adult wages in the household, child labor


serves as the only option.


Why do employers demand child labor? The International Labour Organization reports,


Employers may prefer children because they are paid less than adults on a daily rate (but


not piece-work) basis, because of beliefs about their suitability for certain jobs, and


because more work can be extracted from them owing to their greater docility and lack of


awareness of, and ability to claim, their rights.4


Due to the ready supply and increasing demand of child labor, adults experience


the detrimental effects on their wages. Since adults and children are substitutes in the


labor market, child labor, when used, increases the supply of labor. As a result, this places


pressure on the wages. As the supply of labor increases due to parents sending their


children to work in order to help make ends meet, it reduces the wages of adults already


employed.


The adult unemployment rate and child labor have a causal link in that a rise in


child labor increases the incidence of adult unemployment.5 It is but fair to assume that in


the same measure as females replaced men as factory workers, so child labor, if not


restricted, will crowd a proportionate number of adults out of employment. The general


conception holds that more children equate more working hands. Thus, more working


children generate greater income for the family. Contrarily, studies on unemployment


show that the number of unemployed adults in India nearly equals the number of child


laborers there.


Child labor poses long run consequences that actually help perpetuate poverty by


diminishing human capital. Economists refer to this negative effect as the child labor trap.


An increase in child labor causes a decline in human capital on the working children.


Hence, an inverse relation exists between child labor and a child’s future productivity in


life.6 Children who work long days possess little time for education and as a result,


exhibit low productivity as an adult. Investing in human capital contains growing


importance for a country’s economic growth. When parents cannot invest in their child’s


education, it then affects the next generation.


At the very least, child labor for those under 14 years of age disrupts their


education or even inhibits education altogether.7 Children, who begin working at a


younger age, achieve a lower level of education, which impacts the child’s future income


generation capabilities and welfare


Since the early 1th and late 0th centuries, the U.S. has progressed toward


eliminating child labor. The extent to which a society protects childrens rights measures


the societys progression. As people became more aware of childrens needs, they placed


more emphasis on education. To a certain extent, child labor in the U.S. still exists in


sectors of the economy, mainly among immigrants. In comparison to child labor in the


late 1800s to early 100s the prevalence of child labor and its conditions have improved


drastically. The U.S. case study proves that child labor laws alone do not solve the


problem; integrative efforts such as education, stipends, and trade unions must also be


used.8


School represents the most important means of drawing children away from the


labor market. Studies have correlated low enrollment with increased rates of child


employment. School provides children with guidance and the opportunity to understand


their role in society. Therefore, many insist on immediately abolishing child labor in


developing countries and requiring children to go to school. Yet this approach is


unfeasible for a number of reasons. First, children will not attend these schools without an


economic change in their condition. Schools must make it worthwhile for children to


attend in order to make up for lost earnings. One necessary provision is that these schools


be free. Another possibility is that these schools serve food supplements. Parents might


view this nutrition as valuable and therefore keep their children in school. The quality of


education can also be improved so that schooling is considered an important factor in the


future success of a child.10 Only after the introduction of such substitutes will school


attendance increase.


Policy must also be phased in relation to the level of development and the extent


of child labor currently being used in an economy. Just as current trade agreements allow


for differential and preferential treatment for developing countries, so should labor


standards clauses. Standards should be seen as escalator � as development increases so


do the labour standards required in a particular economy. There are basic minimum


standards which are applicable to all economies.





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