The Economics of Child Labour

Grant McKibbin, a colleague at King’s, is currently looking at child labour with his Integrated Studies class. This posting focuses on the policies that have benn implemented to try and reduce child labour. 186 million children, between the ages of 5 and 14, perform illegal child labour. 111 million of these jobs involve hazardous work. Researcher Kaushik Basu has been investigating the policies to reduce this exploitation. He comes to the conclusion that wealth creation is the best policy to alleviate child labour. He shows how anti-child labour campaigns backfired in 1990’s as many children became reemployed in prostitution – alternatives, in a lot of cases, are worse. The majority of children work to help their families reach a level of income that allows them to live and when wages are low they have to work longer hours. Also adults who worked under similar conditions as children tend to send their children out into the labour market. Basu argues that if the government can reduce child labour and maintain higher wages, the less need for families to resort to their children working. This should reduce the stigma attached to child labour and move the economy away from this form of exploitation. Below is a very good clip from the BBC.

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