Saturday, July 16, 2005

Economist's research changes ideas about children and work - New York Times

Virginia Postrel reporting on research by Eric V. Edmonds and co-authors:

Vietnam repealed its policy against exporting rice. That opened a big new market for Vietnamese farmers - the country went from almost no exports to being one of the world's top rice exporters - and significantly raised the price of rice.

This change, along with the family survey data, allowed Professors Edmonds and Pavcnik to examine what happens when household incomes rise but children's labor also becomes more valuable.
. . .
The results from Vietnam suggest that families do not want their children to work. Parents pull their children out of work when they can afford to, even when the wages children could earn are rising. Poverty, not culture, appears to be the fundamental problem.

Rather than simply banning child labor, then, policy makers should concentrate on alleviating poverty. That includes not only encouraging economic growth but also improving access to schools and to credit markets. Borrowing could allow families to buy equipment to substitute for child labor, to weather short-term declines in income and to pay school fees. . . .

"Most child labor policy even today is directed at trying to get kids into unemployment - to limit working opportunities for kids," he said in the interview. But, "if households are already in a situation where they don't want their children to be working, but they're forced to because of their circumstance, taking additional steps to prevent the kids from working is punishing the poorest for being poor."


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