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Monday, April 26, 2004

Child Labor in the Third World

Anti-child-labor laws may be harmful to children, according to Gautam Bastian:

They deliver tea, make firecrackers, embroider intricate designs, manufacture bangles, and most of them don’t go to school. Policymakers and moralists claim it is contemptible, yet these little laborers are holding out a slim lifeline to impoverished families in the hinterland, or are just trying to keep themselves from starvation. The child laborer has a tough life, but those that loudly proclaim themselves to be his saviors may in fact be making his life more difficult...

Undoubtedly there are instances of cruel, unjust, and deceptive employers as well as harsh working conditions in hazardous industries. But this is true for all workers, not just children, and the health implications are equally grave for all. Only technological developments and an increase in capital intensity can ameliorate these circumstances, neither of which can be accomplished by this policy. Forcing the poor into destitution, by demeaning their efforts to help themselves, is the cruel reality of ant-child labor legislation.

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