The regulation of child labour, or economic sanctions and trade boycotts against countries where child labour is prevalent, may lead to more children working in worse conditions, according to a new study.
The study in Economic Affairs* by Krisztina Kis-Katos and Günther G. Schulze shows that while many developing countries have statutory limits on the age at which children can be employed, these age limits are rarely enforced or observed. In Nepal, for example, the minimum age of employment is 14 years, but 42% of those aged 10-14 participate in the labour market. Similarly, in Burundi the minimum age of employment is 16 years, but 48.5% of children aged between 10 and 14 work.
There is also evidence that where avenues to legitimate employment are closed children are forced into even worse forms of employment, such as sexual labour or stone crushing.
This is because such regulations fail to address the real cause of child labour: poverty. Most children work because their families need the extra income and therefore cannot afford either to send them to school or forego the income that their children earn.
One short-term solution to this problem would be to enable parents to take out a loan against their childrens future earnings so that they can send their children to school and forgo the income they would generate from their employment. The long-term solution, however, lies in the economic development of the worlds poorest countries, rather than the imposition of developed world standards of employment regulation.