child labour How splendid if we could have tomorrow’s progress today. Splendid but counterproductive if we attempt to bully this progress into being. That is what *statists are in effect doing when they see some desirable trend in the *free market toward such things as declining *child labour (or fewer working hours, or better working conditions, etc.) and then attempt to hasten the process by *politics.
Child labour is not an evil in itself. It is a good in the circumstances where it is chosen. It is only that it is even better to be able to afford child *education instead. Child labour tends to disappear with rising incomes, and will largely disappear at an *economically efficient rate if only allowed to do so. As the market becomes more productive it bids up wages enabling parents to afford not to send their children to work. And some businesses wish to employ somewhat more-educated labour, though most businesses will likely always need no more skills than can best be learnt on the job (see *qualifications).
In some *less developed countries, where politics is more than averagely *corrupt and diseconomic, it is not economic for the vast majority of children to be given *schooling when they are needed by their parents to help with the family income. And *state schools, which are often the alternative that is being advocated by critics of child labour, are rarely efficient educators. Long hours for low pay may be all that the *economy can as yet support (i.e., labour productivity is low), though the pay can usually go much further there (e.g., food is much cheaper). Such countries’ economies can grow only by going through the various stages of industrialization that more-developed countries have already passed. But they can achieve these fantastically quicker if the free market is operating and transnational companies can move in to *exploit the cheap labour, thereby bidding up wages in that region.
Where child labour is officially banned, many children end up in a hidden economy with worse jobs and worse pay, and so they and their families suffer. Fewer children are born or survive, as they have been turned into more of a burden instead of a blessing by preventing them from working (see *population on the advantages of having more people). Or if businesses are forced to pay the children more, they will substitute children with adults or more *capital, and thus children overall will again be worse off.
wage legislation; *sweatshops.
A Dictionary of Libertarianism