Perverse consequences of well-intentioned regulation: Evidence from India’s child-labour ban
Prashant Bharadwaj, Leah Lakdawala, Nicholas Li, 5 December 2013
The most popular regulation against child labour is a ban against it. This column presents evidence from such a ban in India. Not only did the ban not reduce child labour, but it even increased it. The effects are concentrated among the poorest families. Therefore, policy reforms other than bans could be more effective in reducing child labour, and in improving the lives of children.
Despite decades of near universal opposition to it, child labour is endemic. According to a recent report by the International Labour Organization, there are nearly 168 million child labourers, of whom 85 million work under hazardous conditions (ILO 2013).
There are many policy options to readdress this. Bans and regulations against child labour are among the most popular worldwide.
Tags: child labour, India
Child labour: Is international activism the solution or the problem?
Matthias Doepke, Fabrizio Zilibotti, 12 October 2009
Rich-country governments and consumer groups pressure poor countries to discourage child labour through boycotts and international labour standards. Yet child labour continues unabated. This column suggests international activism may be partially to blame, because reducing the use of child labour in the formal sector decreases domestic pressures to prohibit it throughout the economy.
Ever since children toiled in the mines and factories of Britain during the Industrial Revolution, industrialisation and economic development have stirred humanitarian concern about child labour. The first child-labour regulations (the British Factory Acts of the early 1800s) were aimed at the appalling working conditions children suffered in textile mills.
Tags: activism, child labour, developing countries
The eradication of child labour in the United States in the early twentieth century: Lessons for developing economies
Juan Manuel Puerta, 2 August 2008
Widespread child labour may slow economic development in a number of ways, and legislation reducing child labour might break such a poverty trap. Why is such legislation rare? This column looks at the historical experience of the United States in eradicating child labour and suggests that industries highly dependent on child labourers may be the political stumbling block.
In recent years, there has been a renewed interest for the issue of child labour.1 An illustration of this trend is given by the sharp increase in the number of empirical papers addressing the topic (Edmonds, 2007).
Tags: child labour, Political Economy, poverty trap, US
Child labour: lessons from the Industrial Revolution
Jane Humphries, 24 April 2008
Child labour remains a pervasive problem across the globe. This column discusses the nature of child labourers’ jobs, earnings, motivations, and well-being during the British Industrial Revolution. Their historical experience offers lessons for today’s policymakers.
Societies have long sought to eliminate child labour.
Topics: Development, Economic history, Labour markets
Tags: child labour, family economics, Industrial Revolution
Trade and child labour
Eric Edmonds, Nina Pavcnik, 19 July 2007
Why are children working? Eliminating trade-linked jobs does not change the circumstances that cause children to work. Empirically, children are less likely to work in countries with more international trade.
Iqbal Masih was born in 1982 near Lahore Pakistan. At age four, Iqbal began working a carpet loom for at least 12 hours a day, six days a week. His parents received an advance on his wages, so Iqbal was bonded to his employer. Iqbal could not leave, and his employer chained him to his loom in order to make sure he did not run away. At age 10, Iqbal escaped.
Topics: Labour markets
Tags: child labour, family economics, trade
Are developing countries engaging in “social dumping”?
Guillermo de la Dehesa, 24 May 2007
Allegations of “social dumping” are often used to justify calls for protectionist measures against developing-nation exports. Economic research suggests that such calls are based in on a series of misconceptions.
Increasingly, the charge of “social dumping” is heard as a rational for protectionist measures against developing country exports. Many businessmen, labour unions and politicians in developed nations believe that lax working regulations and conditions, as well as weak political and social rights, provide developing-country exports with an unfair advantage.
Tags: child labour, labour standards, social dumping