August 11, 2014

Child labor risk in Russia and China

Although many developing nations are seeing the proportion of child laborers in their economies start to drop, two of the world’s largest growth markets appear to be moving in the opposite direction.

Maplecroft’s 2014 Child Labour Index classed China and Russia as posing an “extreme risk” to child laborers, due to inadequate government commitments and capacities to reduce child labor rates in the regions.

The Index evaluates the frequency and severity of reported child labor incidents, and the performance of governments in preventing child labor and ensuring accountability of perpetrators.

However, policies aimed at ending child labor do not always guarantee positive outcomes, and can even cause working conditions to deteriorate. Director of the Free Market Institute Benjamin Powell warns that trade sanctions, for example, can merely limit work options available to children for whom work is necessary.

Powell has cited a bill passed by Iowa in 1993 which banned the import of goods from countries that employed children. As a result, garment companies in Bangladesh fired around 50,000 child laborers, many of whom were forced onto the streets or into prostitution, or went on to take jobs with unregistered workshops with even worse conditions.

Somewhat controversially, Powell suggests that economic growth is the key. He says: “As families escape poverty, child labor declines. As countries become rich, child labor virtually disappears. This answer for how to cure child labor lies in the process of economic growth – a process in which sweatshops play an important role.”

IZA World of Labor’s Eric V. Edmonds has found that setting minimum working ages has the potential to significantly reduce rates of child labor. He finds that the best policies are those that coordinate with schooling laws.

Read more here.

Related articles:
Does minimum age of employment regulation reduce child labor? by Eric V. Edmonds