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If we are to believe UNICEF, there are about 158 million children aged 5-14 engaged in child labor, "working in hazardous situations or conditions." Most people give this a scary name like "child exploitation." There are plenty of disturbing pictures meant to grab your emotional guilt. But are there circumstances that make child labor a better alternative than not being able to earn any money or develop any skills? Government officials enjoy feelings of pride when they create regulations than prevent children from working, claiming they are protecting the children's rights and interests. Are they? Do they realize that they may be condemning families, and specifically children, to live in poverty (that is, if they don't die from starvation because they can't afford to eat)? Do child labor laws actually make the problems worse for children and their families?


In a recent shopping adventure, in search for an addition to our kilim collection, I saw one of those quality-control seals, a "child-labor-free" certification…

One of the first obstacles is defining what actually constitutes child labor. What should the cutoff age be in societies where productive and reproductive life begins very early? In the little towns where these rugs are produced, teen marriage is normal even for boys. And just as it still happens in our own farming communities, helping in the family business starts extremely early. These, however, are technicalities of peripheral importance compared to the main argument, which is that the only reason our children don't have to do this type of labor is that we are wealthier, not because of our child-labor laws nor because we are somehow culturally or racially superior...

Indeed, economic development is the precursor of all things good and humane. This sometimes even includes tangible expressions of parental love - a parent who puts a child behind a loom for ten hours a day does so, not out of callous greed, but because this is what brings food to the table.

Any ban or boycott on oriental rugs, or any other product of child labor, is utterly counterproductive and potentially life-threatening to the very people we are trying to protect. Only economic development can improve the lives of these children, and nothing short of unrestricted free trade will do.

The Fallacy of "Child-Labor-Free"


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Oct 25, 2010 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=360

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