back to article Dear do-gooders, you can't get rid of child labour just by banning it

I think we'd all agree that we'd like the world to be a better place. And I think most of us would, if it didn't take too much effort, support attempts to make it such a better place. There's even some more energetic than I who go out there and do in fact make it a better place: and well done them. However, we do need to, …

  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    so

    Where are all the sensible micro-economists actually advising GovtsG of this? Or do we have a situation where Govts think they only need to worry about the Macro stuff?

    And the corollary - the is Macro-economics the sexy one?

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: so

      Where are all the sensible micro-economists actually advising GovtsG of this?

      There are none. Politicians and their evil half twins, the civil service bureaucrats love to impose their structures and ideas, and the job of their "advisers" is to support whatever misbegotten schemes and rules the elite want to push through. In the UK, look at HS2, as a perfect example, but elsewhere it can be well meaning laws and rules as the intended output, because those passing them aren't really concerned with the underlying issue, but want (eg) to claim compliance with some UN treaty that intends to forbid child labour: "Look, we did something to protect the poor".

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: so

        Exactly, Ledswinger, the modern term is virtue signalling, I believe.

      2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: so

        You can substitute any 1st world country for the UK. The real problem is programs designed to make the promoters feel good rather than actually addressing the problem. The problem the destitute of the world face daily is having enough money (or equivalent) for food and rudimentary shelter. Address the true causes solves the problem. Feel good ideas, as pointed out in the article, almost always do the opposite but the program makes the "do-gooders" feel good about themselves.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Pay kids to go to school

      What's the point of advising governments of this, since as Tim points out the money doled out by central government disappears due to corruption in such low wage countries (here in the US that doesn't happen, because Newspeak refers to this theft as privatization, lobbying and campaign contributions)

      So I wonder if you can go beyond providing dinner and pay kids (or rather, their family) for the kid to attend school? That's great if it removes the incentive for parents to allow their children to work, but may have the unintended side effect of parents having more children simply to collect more checks from the friendly volunteers for the charity providing this.

      Perhaps you accomplish this by offering progressively less money the more kids in a family? Ideally you offer them birth control to help them accomplish this goal, but if you want to have the maximum range of charities available for this very expensive undertaking, you probably can't do that as some of the religious ones would not support it.

      1. BobRocket

        Re: Pay kids to go to school

        Children are a huge parental investment, the lost productivity of heavily pregnant females/nursing mothers has a huge economic impact on the family well in excess of any family allowance/child benefit paid.

        When you pay your NI or contribute to your private pension, they don't put your money into a pot for you to plunder when you get old, they invest it in the future (via children), the dividends of which will pay for your care, all the money in the world will be no use if there is no one available to wipe your arse when you are incapable.

        UK TFR is 1.9, you do the math.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Left and Right and Politics

    For some reason, I have been pondering on the attitudes of my friends - of the Left and Right persuasion, to discover how they arrive at fundamentally opposing worldviews - or so it seems.

    In fact, as far as motivations go, there is no argument. Everyone agrees - left and right - that poverty, lack of education and lack of access to medical care are bad things, as are wars, terrorism and religious and cultural intolerance etc etc.

    But its what happens after that, that marks the difference between Left and Right. The Left seems to naively believe that just supporting someone in a position of authority who is against all that stuff, is what will make it all go away. Or ban it, or something.

    The right tries forlornly to point out that humanity achieves its population density by organization, and that organisation is almost always a hierarchy, and in a hierarchy some people are always a helluva sight more equal than others, and it doesn't really matter if you have a selective meritocracy or a self sustaining aristocracy, some people need to be trained in running things, and the concept of social equality is rubbish in a hierarchy.

    This is the lesson that the Left leaning person never seems to be willing to grow up enough to learn: It is not enough to (be seen to) have your heart in the right place, you also need to have a realistic head on your shoulders, too.

    To vote to reintroduce selective education and grammar schools is not to deprive working class children of an education, its to educate the ones capable of absorbing it better than the ones who probably can't, because society needs them, and we cant afford to do it for everyone.

    'Socialism' seems to assume a society that is unconstrained by any resource limits. Whatever is desired may be achieved by taxing someone else (who deserves to be taxed of course) channelling it through a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy, and then delivering the appearance of a solution, sufficient to fool enough of the electorate...Or simply by 'passing a law' that makes work for the police and the legal profession, but seldom makes any difference at the street level.

    Yes, we need 'socialism' to define what's wrong with society, and where we should be heading, but what we don't need are its 'solutions' because they are naïve, childlike, and utterly impractical for the most part. And usually peddled by cynical men with ulterior motives.

    As you say, the key to child labour is to make something else more attractive. Parents don't willingly send kids out to work, they do it because it's the lesser of two evils. Legislation is the tool to counteract a seriously antisocial minority activity that has no place - not to counteract an arguably socially constructive activity that has majority penetration, and definitely has a place, but would be abandoned in a moment if only those who engaged in it felt they had an alternative..

    .

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Left and Right and Politics

      In theory, grammar schools ought to be a variation on "setting" (separate teaching of children according to ability) within a school year in a school. Seems to be generally acceptable for maths and English. However that's within a school, while there may be differences in the provision of resources in the school between top set and bottom set there are mechanisms in place - head of department, head of year, head teacher, governing body - which ought to mitigate that. Once you set a population of children in a community across schools, the checks are reduced - the LEA and the inspectorate are what stands between equal treatment and "nature red in tooth and claw". Academisation further reduces such checks. Teaching differentials arise, would you rather turn out students with A's or with C's (ignoring that without your help they might have been B's and E's respectively. And thus sink schools.

      1. billat29

        Re: Left and Right and Politics

        That sounds a bit like the BS that merged grammar schools with low performing secondary moderns and dragged the brighter students down to that level thus depriving a generation (or two) of brighter working class children from dragging themselves up in society.

        And did that action specifically improve the education of the rest? No. But it reduced competition for the output of the "independent" schools.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Left and Right and Politics

        When we finally had an ex-grammar school pupil, Wilson, as PM one of his govt's policies was to pull up the ladder behind them. So after a third of a century we were back to having public school boys running the country again.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Doctor Symoleton Re: Left and Right and Politics

          "....Wilson....." What is it with Lefties and their inability to stay on topic? Wilson and the UK grammar school system is completely irrelevant to Third World poverty and child labour. Instead of looking at the real issue you prefer your staple class war whining.

          I also firmly disagree with the idea advanced education is going to save the Third World kiddies from either poverty or child labour as there first needs to be the economic development that provides the jobs for them to use that education in. Outside of the ivory towers of academia - where an unadulterated love of pure education befuddles senses - there is a realisation that has been growing for years that the 3Rs are fine, but teaching Third World kids effective agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing is much more beneficial than advanced algebra and the works of Shakespeare (or Marx). The primary requirement of Third World families is to get out of subsistence farming - where they have to send their kids out to work - and get the economic base established that can then evolve and lead to the next or following generation actually requiring advanced education.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Doctor Symoleton Left and Right and Politics

            Matt, your ignorance of British politics - and mine - is showing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Left and Right and Politics

      "As you say, the key to child labour is to make something else more attractive. Parents don't willingly send kids out to work, they do it because it's the lesser of two evils. Legislation is the tool to counteract a seriously antisocial minority activity that has no place - not to counteract an arguably socially constructive activity that has majority penetration, and definitely has a place, but would be abandoned in a moment if only those who engaged in it felt they had an alternative.."

      But at the same time social hierarchies and what you describe tend to produce momentum that in turn pulls the "haves" and "have-nots" apart. Which eventually causes all the ladders up to either fill or be pulled up, so no more upward mobility. The "haves" become the "have everythings" while the "have nots" become the "have nothings". The "have everythings" can circle their own little pocket of civilization around themselves, permanently cutting off the "have nothings" and leaving them to fester.

      And if one has the audacity to say, "Well, that's just how life is. Deal with it," eventually enough people will reply, "Deal with THIS!" and you end up with uprisings, political instability, and shades of anarchy. Which will eventually beg the question, "What's the bloody point of civilization in the first place?"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Left and Right and Politics

        social hierarchies and what you describe tend to produce momentum that in turn pulls the "haves" and "have-nots" apart.

        1/. Is that really so?

        2/. So what?

        Serious questions. In the Peter Principle the concept that some sort of class (or glass) ceiling was useful in preventing total incompetence in the hierarchy.

        There is a point there.

        Secondly, the 'class barriers' have always been somewhat permeable, since the days when a good warrior got to be knighted, and got given his land, on the basis he could and would defend it on behalf of the king or queen who gave it to him.

        Arguably the class barriers are less permeable today as a direct result of egalitarianism having removed the access to privilege granted to the few on merit, it now being the sole province of those who are part of the monumental public sector gravy train or happen to be born with silver spoons in their mouths.

        There is a rather interesting proposition going around in the right wing circles:That in a resource rich society a particular type of social organisation flourishes, namely one that stuffs the system with as many rabbits (so to speak) as possible.

        When resources become constrained, a different type of social organisation succeeds - one more disciplined and more socially cohesive. The wolves.

        http://anonymousconservative.com/

        I leave you to form your own conclusions..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Left and Right and Politics: What's the bloody point of civilization in the first place?"

        There is no point: it is simply a successful strategy in self perpetuation.

        Its not something that 'ought to be' its something that manages to keep itself going - up till now anyway.

    3. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Left and Right and Politics

      "Yes, we need 'socialism' to define what's wrong with society, ..."

      Surely, a 'capitalist' would say, "Look at all these poorly educated children. They are a wasted resource and an indication that more investment is needed in the education system. See all those people who are ill due to smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise; a small amount of money invested in a public education programme would greatly reduce these problems and increase national productivity." Etc.

      We need sensible and intelligent people to see and understand what's wrong with society. They seem to be in short supply at the 'top'.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Left and Right and Politics

        "See all those people who are ill due to smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise; a small amount of money invested in a public education programme would greatly reduce these problems and increase national productivity."

        As a comedian once said, "You can't fix stupid." Yet societal sensibilities demand we try to save what lives we are capable, else we be denounced as heartless. So how do you deal with the rejects of society who don't want to learn while maintaining society's good image?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Left and Right and Politics

          Citizens' income (maintains the image, as well as making lives more bearable), and some kind of incentive towards effective long-term contraception; perhaps pay the equivalent of the benefits they'd be given per-child, times half the average family size, to anyone who has been sterilized? This is on the assumption that they will bring up their offspring to be like themselves, and that not many of those offspring will make the effort to get out of it for themselves.

      2. graeme leggett

        Re: Left and Right and Politics

        To take an analogy from the commercial world. The well-educated, fairly health masses who generally work, take a holiday abroad, pay fair bit of tax etc are your successful products. So long as you keep up maintenance of the production equipment, spend a bit on marketing every now and then and generally keep quality control in hand they need no more attention.

        The poorly educated, poorly served masses are your low cost but difficult products. You've been making them for years, quality is variable, but they seem to be wanted and it's as more force of habit that keeps you making them. If you spent money on marketing, new production line equipment, followed up with good after-sales service they'd be as good as the rest. But they don't bring in a lot value most of the time so with limited funds it's hard to get the directors* to agree to spend that much on improvements to develop the opportunity.

        While reasonable business sense, it's rubbish societal sense. Not that I believe even the baby-eating right-wing arch-capitalists actually think like that. (I hope not.)

        * in this analogy - probably the electorate. Obviously the analogy starts to fall apart there.

      3. itzman

        Re: Left and Right and Politics

        Of course enlightened self interest is some form of social conscience.

        The problem is when you set in motion a system that practices mushroom management from the cradle to the grave, you don't get good people at the top.

        Not until democracy - universal equivalent suffrage - is destroyed, anyway.

    4. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Left and Right and Politics

      >what we don't need are its 'solutions' because they are naïve, childlike, and utterly impractical for the most part.

      Indeed. What a failure free school dinners, the NHS, affordable social housing, and free schooling have been.

      And free university education, when we still had that - before those kehrayzee right wingers told us it was naive, childlike, demanding, and utterly impractical, and we couldn't afford it. (Unlike most other developed countries, which - inexplicably - seem to be able to afford it just fine.)

      >'Socialism' seems to assume a society that is unconstrained by any resource limits.

      That's bollocks. It's capitalism that believes in the holy creed of infinite never-ending growth, isn't it?

      >abandoned in a moment if only those who engaged in it felt they had an alternative

      Which is what socialism really is - freedom of choice. Not the fake non-choices defined by so-called free-market capitalism - also known as "Should I starve my student daughter or should she go on the game to pay her fees?" - but genuine, open, freedom of opportunity.

      Why else bother making education and school meals free?

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Left and Right and Politics

        @ TheOtherHobbes

        "Indeed. What a failure free school dinners, the NHS, affordable social housing, and free schooling have been."

        It takes a tough person to accept it but well said. Not that the NHS, social housing or free schooling is a bad idea, just that they get so corrupted that they demand money regardless of the financial availability and then rally against any idea of sustainability as it might cost cosy jobs. The service to the people becomes corrupted to the service of those who can leech 'free' money. The cost to the people is huge in both cost and service.

        "And free university education, when we still had that - before those kehrayzee right wingers told us it was naive, childlike, demanding, and utterly impractical, and we couldn't afford it."

        That seems to be a revision of history. As I recall it was the centre left labour gov who insisted that a degree was the new baseline for a job (to the detriment of and then realised that every electorate bribe comes at a cost. So pointless degrees (just to get one) were created, tuition fees imposed (although Blair promised they wouldnt) and kids wanting to avoid work do so while racking up debts they dont understand.

        "That's bollocks. It's capitalism that believes in the holy creed of infinite never-ending growth, isn't it?"

        Socialism assumes infinite resources (or dragging everyone down to the lowest point while corruption lives well) while capitalism assumes infinite ideas. Resources are limited but we have yet to find limits to creativity.

        "Which is what socialism really is - freedom of choice."

        Since when? Freedom as long as it is acceptable to those in power (no matter what they do behind the scenes) is not freedom. Socialism always seems to turn into an assault on those deemed 'evil' because someone has to pay for the bloating corruption with the expanding size of the state provider because they would never accept cuts to their budget.

        As with this article- capitalists provided the means for families to survive. Socialists banned child labour making it harder to survive without more child labour. A charity not the gov provides a capitalistic incentive to send the kid to school instead of work and appears to be working based on the figures in the article.

        *Obviously capitalist/socialist is used as exclusives but in the real world we have capitalist with social conscience and the grey areas between the 2 extremes

    5. Sarah Balfour

      Re: Left and Right and Politics

      As an anarchist, I object most vehemently to that sweeping generalisation. I don't "follow" anyone, I'm not a fucking sheep, and there's things where I seem to be the only one who can see the problems (the NHS for example - I have a MASSIVE problem with the NHS. And NICE (permanent holder of the award for world's most ironic acronym)) and this gets me labelled a 'conspiracy theorist' (actually, that's not COMPLETELY accurate, there are many GPs who've massive problems with the NHS and NICE, but they have to keep their yaps shut if they want to continue GPing (the more I read - and learn - about the GMC, the more convinced I am that it's run/controlled by a mafia).

      That said, congrats Tim on writing the first article I actually understood - and almost entirely agreed with (though points deducted for the mention of that cunt - him, he who is Jinormously Obese. If you want to try to understand WHY I have a bit of an issue, to put it mildly,with the NHS, then look no further (not that looking further is possible, the twat's so fat he practically eclipses the Sun) - why the fuck the NHS thought that soliciting the advice of someone who owns a chain of Italian restaurants on how to tackle childhood obesity is unfathomable, Italian is probably the most obesity-causing cuisine there is; no, I'm not talking about the butter-and-cream-heavy sauces (that's the healthy bit) I'm talking about all the grainy shite; the pasta, the pizzas, the breads - NOTHING piles on the pounds faster than grainy stodge. The fact that the NHS thinks this wanker is the best person to advise them on how to stop us becoming the most obese nation on Earth says all you need to know about the NHS - it's not serious on tackling (childhood) obesity, because it needs fat kids to become obese adults, to keep 'em drugged for life. If it started feeding kids a healthy high-fat/low-carb diet, they'd not grow up to be adults at risk of developing heart disease, which would mean they wouldn't require statins, which would mean all those at NICE, and within the NHS who are basically nowt more than sales-droids wouldn't get their big, FAT, Brucie Bonuses.

      Cholesterol DOESN'T cause heart disease, eating fat DOESN'T make you fat, ALL carbs are sugar, INSULIN causes OBESITY - four truisms the NHS doesn't want you to know.

      That's why they need Jowly Wobliver - who better to convince kiddies that a bowl of birdseed is the perfect start to the day…?

      1. BobRocket

        Re: Left and Right and Politics

        No idea what you're talking about but enjoyed the rant so have an upvote.

        I consider myself to be an AnarchoSyndicalist, apparently 'we' have a magazine http://syndicalist.us/ I find the tale of hijack by vultures and destruction by fire to be particularly heartrending. (I only discovered the mag by googling my speeling)

        What do you think of SEMCO in Brazil and Mondragon in Spain ?

      2. x 7 Silver badge

        Re: Left and Right and Politics

        "congrats Tim on writing the first article I actually understood"

        Is that the first of Tim's articles that you've understood, or the first article you've ever understood?

        Maybe the answer will show why many have problems understanding your rants....

  3. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Child?

    When discussing provision for children, perhaps one should take the trouble to distinguish between actual children, and strapping teenagers classed as children under first-world laws and conventions. I understand the Indian law mentioned applies to kids below 14.

    Do we still have child labour in Blighty? Or have we banned things like the paper-round and the weekend work at the market garden that my generation did to earn a bit of pocket-money? As you say, the real consideration is yes-to-school rather than no-to-work, and there are valid questions around how much of each are healthy and indeed mutually compatible.

    As for dealing with poverty, the one thing that really matters is to bring birth rates down.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Child?

      "As for dealing with poverty, the one thing that really matters is to bring birth rates down."

      Last I checked, birth rates are a symptom, not a cause. Third-world countries have more children to have more hands for labor as well as raise the odds some of them survive to care for the parents in their old age. In first-world countries, neither are such a concern, so the idea tends to be to concentrate on a small number of children to give them better attention.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Child?

        In the Philippines poorer urban families would like to limit their number of children - particularly so they can afford to send some to school, Beyond a certain number they become an uneconomic burden on the family. However the Roman Catholic bishops have blocked a Government scheme to provide free reliable contraceptives. Even the Pope on his recent trip said that they should limit their families and not "breed like rabbits". However his idea of an ideal number of children is a minimum of three - and more is better as long as the mother doesn't die prematurely. He avoided the question of how those families limit their size when their dogma approved methods are already failing.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Child?

          You note an exception in urban overcrowding, but the Pope has a point, too. Why can't young people curb their instincts?

          Anyway, once you get out to the provinces and more agrarian areas, the convention comes back into play.

          1. Filippo

            @Charles 9

            Young people, on average, can't curb their instincts. It doesn't really matter why or whether they should. On a large scale, birth control through abstinence is a dismal failure. The people who push it, Pope included, are driven by ideology. Pragmatically, it's a failed policy, it should be scrapped, and frankly I don't know how anyone could think it could work. We can't even get people not to get drunk.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Child?

            "Anyway, once you get out to the provinces and more agrarian areas, the convention comes back into play."

            The worldwide trend is migration from rural areas to urban ones. As the rural farming practices are modernised then fewer people are needed - and the chance of employment in new industries is in the cities. Japan is resorting to all sorts of incentives to stop some farming from dying out with the current elderly generation who are left in some rural areas.

            That is what happened in the UK with the Industrial Revolution. The enclosures, and efficient machines like Jethro Tull's seed drill, were a push factor. Heavy industry and its satellite services in the city were the pull factor. The same has been happening in China for a while now - and in much of the developing world.

          3. James Micallef Silver badge

            Re: Child?

            "Why can't young people curb their instincts?"

            Erm, BECAUSE they're teenagers who almost by definition will (a) want to experiment with new things (b) are even more attracted to stuff that you tell them is forbidden and (c) are raging hormone-storms.

            Also, to put a more scientific point on it, the part of the brain where self-control comes from is not fully developed until around age 25. So this type of behaviour is inbuilt and hardwired.

            More pertinently, why should they?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Child?

        "birth rates are a symptom, not a cause"

        The two are not mutually exclusive. They can act together to reinforce the situation making improvement an intractable problem.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Child?

      "As for dealing with poverty, the one thing that really matters is to bring birth rates down."

      One thing that is quite strongly correlated with falling birth rates is rising female education rates, so it looks like school dinners could be the answer all round.

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: Child?

        One thing that is quite strongly correlated with falling birth rates is rising female education rates, so it looks like school dinners could be the answer all round.

        When I went back to the university, my introduction to econometrics class' professor was working on determining best predictors for a child's future income. The single best predictor turned out to be mother's education level. There's all sorts of why's can attach to why that is depending on your particular discipline and branch/theology within. I just noted these kinds of things as my faculty adviser's specialty was development.

        This is a generational investment problem. Yep, big strapping boys are good tomorrow and in your (peasants') interest. However, if you are really concerned about the grandchildren's prospects, gotta think about the girls (and the girls your big strapping son might marry).

    3. Charles Manning

      Labour?

      We also need to figure out what we mean by Labour - as in Child Labour.

      We'd certainly view it as wrong to send pre-pubescent kids down the mines or working the spinning jenny, but what about other activities?

      Consider the six- to ten year old herd boys of Africa who spend a whole day out tending the cattle. Are they child labour?

      Or here in NZ, and likely in most European countries, the thousands of children who live on farms and help out with various farm work from gorse cutting to tailing lambs.

      Finding the right place to draw the line is pretty difficult.

    4. Fraggle850

      @Nick Kew Re: Child?

      >As for dealing with poverty, the one thing that really matters is to bring birth rates down.

      You are putting the cart before the horse. I'd refer you to the excellent Han Rosling lecture from last week:

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5JiYcV_mg6A

      Haven't checked the YouTube clip linked here but the ultimate conclusion of the lecture when it was shown on BBC2 was that ending what the UN define as extreme poverty seems to be the tipping point in lowering birth rates to sustainable levels. It also pointed out that this was potentially achievable at comparatively low cost.

  4. MyffyW Silver badge

    Careful Tim

    Minimum income last week. Free school meals today. That's two articles in a row that made sense to my lefty sensibilities (and challenged them too).

    Really well argued case. Thank you.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    free lunch

    Before I reached the words in the article, I'd thought of a permutation on the theme. It probably counts as market distortion and therefore wouldn't work, but here goes.

    Free school meal means that the cost to the subsistence family of sending a child to school has to be at least net neutral. Calories "earned" by child at school = calories they would have generated scratching dust in a field or stopping goats wandering off. the education is an as yet intangible return but as pointed out education has to be good so parents accept that. What if - and we'll call it an incentive to encourage take up/compensate for the energy expenditure of the journey to school - we add a bonus by sending child home at end of school day with a handful of the local carbohydrate of choice? Would this 'profit' get banked and increase survival chances at times of crisis and therefore accelerate progress away from subsistence.

    1. BobRocket

      Re: free lunch

      As you point out, paying the child in (extra) carbohydrates would distort the local carb market, why not pay the parent/main carer a cash sum each week to ensure that the child turns up at school each day.

      1. Tim Worstal

        Re: free lunch

        That's an intervention that has been tried. I want to say in Peru but that's only from memory.

        Works very well too. Here's your family benefit, continues only if the school attendance record does. Addressing the same trade off for the parents and solving it, even if in a different manner.

        Do note though, Peru is hugely (6x or so) richer than most of Africa. Don't know whether that is important to this or not but wouldn't surprise if it were.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: free lunch

        @BobRocket

        Why food instead of cash? Corruption.

        If you pay cash, how do you know some of that isn't bribing whoever takes the register to say the kids are there when they're out working? If you have to be there to eat, well, you have to be there, so you might as well learn a thing. If we assume all calorific needs are met by school attendence, not just a single meal, then you have to be there at the start, the middle, and the end of the school day.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the 1920/30s the school leaving age in England was 14 - unless you were bright enough to pass the school certificate a year early at 13. This meant that it was intelligent working class children who were most likely to be put into menial work at that age. See the opening chapters of James Hanley's 1931 novel "Boy" for a harrowing description.

    In some cultures as household income rises it is the father who gets more leisure time and the money to finance his pleasures. Household wealth may also be accumulated in order to provide a dowry to effectively sell off their daughters who are regarded as a liability. One daughter is often retained as an unpaid servant to her ageing parents - a practice common in the UK until about the 1970s.

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      "One daughter is often retained as an unpaid servant to her ageing parents - a practice common in the UK until about the 1970s."

      My mum (youngest of three sisters) ran off and joined the army ...

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Back in the early '90's when I was studying for economics, micro-lending by the Grameen bank to women was interesting in just that manner. Women were far more likely to invest the returns into the family, not spend it on their own leisure. [Which speaks volumes about sex differences even if that is politically incorrect.] Women invested in the household, usually not in their leisure which is one of the aspects that caught my attention. Degreed in economics, never did complete graduate school (health collapsed), but the sex-linked differential in to what was done with the proceeds was striking, which was why your post caught my eye. Definitely 'politically incorrect' but I've always had a blind spot there.

      At the time, micro-lending was shiny, shiny. Besides, I like systems that you can instrument (systems engineer before econ) and that was why micro-lending caught my eye.

      1. Schlimnitz

        I believe sex differences that way round get a quiet pass.

  7. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Boffin

    Another crucial vector

    Education and emancipation of women in the developing world.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Another crucial vector

      I tend to argue that this is also something that happens as a result of development, not as a cause of it. Poor societies have two features: high child death rates and the economy runs on human muscle power. Thus women need to have many children and they are severely disadvantaged in the economy by both that and the lack of muscle heft.

      A more developed economy has much lower child death rates and also jobs that aren't reliant upon muscle power (even basic textiles and sewing machines provides this). Agreed, it's not all one way but I do generally argue that it is economic development which allows female emancipation and education.

      1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

        Re: Another crucial vector

        Broadly true Tim, but sadly it doesn't always follow. Saudi Arabia might be considered to be a developed economy (I know, I know) but the female population seem to be held firmly in the 11C.

        Even here in Blighty, there is still much to do.

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: Another crucial vector

          When it comes to that area, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you have to cautious about generalizations. The internal economy of the household can, and often is, strikingly different from the public facing economy. In a way, the striking contradictions about the way they separate the two (conflicting) economies is what fascinates me about their society. [Mom's being an anthropologist certainly didn't help when it comes to my academic eye.]

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legalise it?

    If making child labour illegal has made it worth less, and that has meant that very poor families send more children to work, does this mean that the right thing to do (to minimise it rather than eradicate it) would be to legalise child labour?

    I find that conclusion quite odd, but I can't see the fault in the reasoning.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Legalise it?

      Bolivia actually did this a year back. Made some forms of child labour (10 and 12 year olds sorta thing, not 6 year olds from memory) legal again having seen that a ban didn't work well.

  9. Commswonk Silver badge

    I can't see that happening any time soon...

    Nick Kew wrote: "As for dealing with poverty, the one thing that really matters is to bring birth rates down."

    In fact the reverse is happening, in effect if not in actual numbers born. Quite justifiably "western medicine" is doing its best to eradicate the high mortality diseases that plague the developing world / third world (call it what you will) such as malaria and as a direct result the global population is growing much faster than it otherwise would. On another front West Africa has a higher population than it would have had if the west had not stepped in to contain the outbreak of ebola (should dideases be capitalised?) in the last couple of years; in turn the number of births will increase over and above what it would have done had the outbreak been left to run its course.

    Now I am not going to suggest that western medicine should not have intervened, but it does seem a little perverse that we save people from early and unpleasant deaths (and in the case of polio literally crippling diseases) only for them to have to spend a life in poverty or at best near poverty.

    I don't pretend to have a single clue about how to resolve the contradictions that a rapidly increasing world population brings; there are mouths to be fed and if third world parents see no option than to send their children to work than perhaps it is not for us to tell them they are wrong. It isn't that long since child labour in the UK was commonplace; the long summer school holiday is a legacy from the times when children were essential in being able to help bring in the harvest. At least the children of the time had schools to go to; in some parts of the world even basic education has to be paid for somehow - the word "free" doesn't come into it. The choice "work or school" isn't a choice at all if work brings in a little bit of money while school costs money that people simply don't have.

    Child slave labour is another matter entirely, of course, but I can't see how we can get rid of that either; while it can be argued that the west's insatiable hunger for cheap throw - away clothing adds to the problem of child labour it can hardly be argued that stopping buying the stuff would make the children's lives - or those of their parents - any better.

    What is really sad is that servile conditions do not end with the arrival of adulthood; think of the stories that emerge from time to time about the conditions under which fruit - phone assemblers seem to have to work.

    Overall it's a much bigger picture than child labour, and the solution - if there is one - is far from clear. Perhaps there simply isn't one while the population increases at the rate it does.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can't see that happening any time soon...

      "Now I am not going to suggest that western medicine should not have intervened, but it does seem a little perverse that we save people from early and unpleasant deaths (and in the case of polio literally crippling diseases) only for them to have to spend a life in poverty or at best near poverty."

      There is a lag factor. It takes a while for a society to adjust to improvements in child survival rates - or the society's acceptability of reliable contraception. In the early 20th century in England my maternal grandparents had 13 children of which 8 survived beyond infancy. Those children married in the 1920/30s - but they averaged only two children. The subsequent generations have also averaged two children. A few blips were uncannily smoothed - one of my cousins has five children. Her two siblings have a combined total of one - maintaining the overall average.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: I can't see that happening any time soon...

        There is a lag factor, but the scenario I was thinking of was not the UK, but the developing world where larger numbers of children are commonplace.

        The comments in other contributors' posts about birth control are also valid and more to the point, important.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: I can't see that happening any time soon...

      In fact the reverse is happening, in effect if not in actual numbers born. Quite justifiably "western medicine" is doing its best to eradicate the high mortality diseases that plague the developing world / third world (call it what you will) such as malaria and as a direct result the global population is growing much faster than it otherwise would.

      It's not, actually. When families know that 80% of their children will die before they're 5, they tend to have 10 or 12. Once they know that most children will live, the numbers rapidly drop to 2-4 per family. The UK is today at below replacement rate, 2 children per couple. France is 2.1, just about at replacement. World population is heading for a plateau, as levels of extreme poverty drop, and health improves.

      Look for some of Hans Rosling's presentations on these subjects.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can't see that happening any time soon...

      Would it be a tad cynical to wonder if this offsets the opposite effect from us selling them weapons ?

  10. Trollslayer Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A simple constructive idea

    I hope it spreads further as it is about enabling instead of stamping on things.

  11. Commswonk Silver badge

    Re: Another crucial vector

    Tim Worstal wrote: "...I do generally argue that it is economic development which allows female emancipation and education.

    It may well allow it, but it doesn't guarantee it; not by a long chalk. Some people in some places will enforce the non - emancipation and education of women at gunpoint, although to be fair the same places cannot be argued as being "developed".

    In addition there are places which although economically developed don't allow women to drive, so using the availability of money as a definition of "development" does not ensure emancipation as we would understand it.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

      Re: Another crucial vector

      @Commswonk

      I posted my reply to Tim (above) before I saw yours. I suspect we were thinking along very similar lines.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Another crucial vector

        Your suspicions are entirely correct.

    2. The Axe

      Re: Another crucial vector

      But look at how hard they have to work to keep the women down.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another crucial vector

        At least they don't have to worry about criticism from western feminists.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paradox?

    The article seems to point to an economic paradox. Banning drugs does not affect the practice - however it does raise the market price and reduce the quality. Yet banning child labour has apparently reduced the price.

    One would have assumed that regulation would have overheads for the employer - effectively being passed on to the workers as lower wages or a reduced number of jobs available.

    It may be in India that the employers needed to pay bribes to ban enforcement officers - and that is then effectively deducted from the under-age workers' pay.

    1. Will 28

      Re: Paradox?

      I think you're seeing a paradox because you're looking at these two things from opposite directions. If you're going to look at drugs as being that the person providing the drugs can command a higher price, then you have to look at the child labour as being the person offerring the labour can command a "higher" price (i.e. not pay as well).

    2. Old Handle

      Re: Paradox?

      The difference is that unlike drugs, very few people want child labor specifically so they're not going to pay a premium for it when it's harder to find.

  13. Steve Crook

    The reason for making it illegal

    Is that it makes it an enforcement problem. SJW's get to puff their chests out because they've done the difficult bit and also have the opportunity to criticise the authorities for not doing enough as illustrated by a lack of convictions. Win win.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laws

    In England it is getting to the point where one has to think twice before letting a neighbour's teenager help in the garden in return for some pocket money. Together with other child protection laws it is becoming increasingly difficult for elderly people to help guide children towards being useful members of society.

    An interesting case in France was a young church choir who occasionally gave a ticketed public concert in the church. A local official stopped a concert on the grounds that by law the children must each be paid a going rate as performers. The performance went ahead as a "free" concert - possibly with voluntary donations. I believe the official was eventually overridden and the church choirs were allowed to raise funds by giving ticketed public concerts.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Laws

      One law never changes. That of unintended consequences.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Laws

      "A local official stopped a concert on the grounds that by law the children must each be paid a going rate as performers"

      I seem to recall a few professional musicians who organised ticketed concerts with the proceeds going to charity. I'm not sure any officials ever stepped in to stop a concert on the grounds that Bono wasn't getting paid.

      In any case I think at the very least, performers in this sort of concert (of whatever age) should just need to sign a waiver saying they are providing their talent gratis for the concert.

  15. Bassey

    Taking your argument further....

    If we take your argument and apply it to another of the proposed problems, the existence of Cowell, I think most would agree he exists because a large group of today's youth are driven by the media to aspire simply to "becoming famous". Therefore, following the Free School Meal solution, we must either meet the incentive or remove the incentive. Making everyone famous is not realistic so we need to remove the desire to become famous. I can see two ways of doing this.

    1) Careful regulation of all media to show how becoming famous is not the be all and end all of existence and that the famous are generally no more happy than the rest of us. This all seems a bit far fetched and I don't really see it working in practice

    2) A hunger games style elimination of 100 "celebrities" each week or so. That should cut down on the number of people wishing to become a celebrity, provide TV far more watchable than X-Factor or BGT and, as an added bonus, should I be allowed to create the list of "celebrities" I have a sneaking suspicion Cowell will cease to be a problem.

    Ahh, economics at work!

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Taking your argument further....

      1) I'd say the media do this all the time. Pictures of faded flabby "stars" in long-range photographs. gleeful reporting of visits to divorce court/criminal court/rehabilitation/job centre. Headlines declaring their latest album a flop.

      But and, at the same time without a hint of acknowledging the doublethink, reprinting the stars staged photoshoots, serialising their tedious (auto)biographies, etc etc.

      We just need young people to read newspapers etc with a semblance of critical reasoning so that a) they learn not to trust a single source as the gospel truth but an aspect of "truth", b) they see that a yo-yo career is no healthier than yo-yo dieting.

    2. Tim Worstal

      Re: Taking your argument further....

      Option 2) please. But can we make Cowell all 100 of those soon to be deaded celebrities each and every week?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Taking your argument further....

        @TW

        'Option 2) please. But can we make Cowell all 100 of those soon to be deaded celebrities each and every week?'

        Not so quick. I am surprised to find myself defending Simon Cowell, who I find repugnant as any decent person should, but (not that I watch much telly) I saw him on some pop music programme recently reveal, in the space of about four sentences, *exactly* how the commercial pop music business works, and by implication his part in it. No bullshit. It was extraordinary, and ought to be required viewing for all who dream of pop music celebrity.

      2. Evil Graham

        Re: Taking your argument further....

        Well it might be correct to say that legislation against child poverty is ineffective, but we can't say that about Cowell because we haven't tried it.

        I think we should at least give it a go.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Friends and neighbours often ask me to give their teenager something to do in my garden. Apparently their children are supposed to earn their pocket money by doing chores at home - but this leads to endless arguments about timing and diligence.

    Doing something for someone else is seen as "real" work and the children do a good job as they know the money is not guaranteed otherwise. I have considered giving the teenagers pocket money if they maintain their parents' front garden - as that is a benefit to the whole street.

  17. Commswonk Silver badge

    On the other hand

    "Empires", ours and other countries' are things of the past. By attempting to enforce any sort of standard on another country are we not indulging in cultural and social imperialism, expecting them to accept our norms rather than being allowed to develop their own? And are we not doomed to fail?

    Is trying to occupy the high moral ground not itself a bit immoral?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: On the other hand

      I was going to post something similar. We built our industrial revolution on child labour, and our prosperity by exporting the fruits of that revolution. Isn't it a bit hypocritical, not to say self-serving, to try and prevent other countries from doing the same thing on the grounds that we now think that it's morally wrong?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: On the other hand

        Must agree. I think the point is to get developing societies through and out of the child labour stage as quickly as possible, and if the research TW has based his argument on is sound, then banning ain't the way. Free school meals (decent, nourishing ones) are.

        As for the emancipation of women, well, Western women didn't have it so great, either, until the majority of families had got beyond subsistence pastoralism to a point at which everyone was adequately and reliably nourished, and attention could be turned to other things. The best we can do for developing societies is to get them to that stage ASAP. Then, at least, there will be a practical and demonstrably better alternative to tradidional attitudes, but whatever we do those attitudes won't change overnight.

  18. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    To some extent things depend on the nature of the labour. Unskilled work in a sweatshop is one thing. However, tending the goats on the family farm is a step up as the child acquires the knowledge required to run the farm in later life is a step up although if the farm remains at subsistence level it's not an adequate step. Working whilst learning a skilled job is a definite benefit. It's becoming fashionable again amongst our great political thinkers. It's called apprenticeship but not to be confused with the TV version.

  19. x 7 Silver badge

    feeding boys at school may work, but feeding girls may not - depending on the regional culture.

    In many places, educating women is simply not socially acceptable due to tradition, religious stupidity, or male insecurity. Girls are seem as a liability or a disposable resource. Put them out to work, sell them off, traffic them. As early as possible to get them off your hands

    No amount of feeding in schools is going to change that - those girls are going to end up in the brothel, or as child brides, whatever happens.I don't know what the answer is.................. Maybe better to legitimise child prostitution - under controlled circumstances - so the authorities can keep tabs on whats happening????? Horrible thought, but better a controlled horror than an uncontrolled one?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Maybe better to legitimise child prostitution - under controlled circumstances - so the authorities can keep tabs on whats happening?"

      After the break-up of the USSR a lot of young men in the sex industry in large cities were seeking a better life than they had in rural areas. The same had happened in Germany in the troubled economic times in the Weimar Republic - as documented by Christopher Isherwood and others.

      In the 1980s Moscow was said to have had tens of thousands of children abandoned by their parents. Some found a survival refuge where porn production was an economic mainstay of a young group. The USA had long had a similar problem with children running away from home for various reasons. Victorian London had abandoned children as young as 5 joining street gangs for protection and survival.

      The common thread is parental neglect or the wish to seek a better life than their parents'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Or you get a situation such as China where you end up putting both your and the previous poster's problems put together.

        Millennia-old tradition are extremely male-dominant. Females are almost pure burden on a family as you need expensive dowries to marry them off, and they can't inherit the family name as a result. On top of that, China's the most populous country in the world (over 1.5 billion, #2 India is only at 1 billion), so the state's imposing birth limits as a necessary evil (it's either that or some sort of cull) so there's such an extreme demand for sons that (1) baby girls end up aborted if discovered in the womb or literally left in the trash if discovered upon birth, and (2) the male to female ratio is somewhere around 10:1, which means many males come to realize, pardon the turn of phrase, that they "will never score", essentially dead-ending them. It puts numerous strains on the Chinese government: in terms of morality, logistics, and stability.

        PS. As for those societies where women are practically treated as property, China's picture paints a rather scary picture if women come to realize their existence is still needed because only they can give birth and deny men their prizes...by killing themselves. A sizeable female suicide would paint a pretty ugly picture that will be very hard to address within the auspices of tradition.

        1. silent_count

          I find your post interesting.

          If Chinese norms are really producing a 10:1 male/female ratio, I'd imagine that would drive up the value of females - each girl would have ten potential hubbies lined up outside her door.

          Brothels would make a killing from the nine unsuccessful suitors.

          1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

            And if I were Russia or India (or both!), I'd be getting awful nervous about all those frustrated males in a country on my border.

        2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Not even close to 10:1 and strangely enough, with relaxed rule for second child, females are more valuable than before. Arranged marriages that have a business element are advantageous.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            I'd read that number some time back, but the desire for males IS quite strong because of traditions (as noted, only a son can inherit the family name). CNN covered the story some time back.

  20. InNY

    Hum,

    for the flaccid arguments purported as serious and thoughtful usually laid out for the selfish arrogance of laissez faire economics this one is up there with the "why blood diamonds and the ensuing slavery, war, destruction and corruption must be accepted [because it favours the entitled in the western world]" article.

    I know some of you will disagree, but really, think about it. Providing that you are a loving supportive parent who wishes only the best for their child[ren] - do you want your child[ren] to work for low pay from an early age, simply because of the economic model touted as being the "best" is a good idea? Or would you prefer the gentleness of education, enabling your off-spring to avoid the drudgery of menial, physically demanding (and life shortening) work just so some arrogant, entitled, middle class oaf can get more of whatever it is they have and (pointlessly) need more of?

    Left or right of the political centre, child labour is an abhorrence and should not be accepted wherever it is found. The political thinkers and activists have spent the last hundred years or so making this a reality in the western industrial economies; do we, as the privileged, deny others' the same quest we have sought and attained?

    Surely the point of westernized politics is to bring everyone up to the same level, not reinforce the cavalier vulgarity of feudalism?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hum,

      > Surely the point of westernized politics is to bring everyone up to the same level,

      I think the point of modern politics is to bring everyone *down* to the same level.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hum,

      "[...] Or would you prefer the gentleness of education, enabling your off-spring to avoid the drudgery of menial, physically demanding (and life shortening) work [...]"

      As many in the far East have found (and also in the UK) - no matter how prolonged your educational period - at the end you can be competing for a limited pool of jobs at that level.

      In the 1930s the Junior Technical Schools in England had a good record of employment for their leavers. They had usually been selected at 13 for above average maths and English - plus an interest in practical things. They were then prepared with a good technical grounding - ready to enter craft apprenticeships at 16.

      The Grammar Schools selected pupils on purely academic ability at 11. At 16 a small number were selected to progress towards university. The remainder mainly went into menial clerical jobs - and their rate of unemployment was higher than their peers from the JTS.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hum,

      "I know some of you will disagree, but really, think about it. Providing that you are a loving supportive parent who wishes only the best for their child[ren] - do you want your child[ren] to work for low pay from an early age, simply because of the economic model touted as being the "best" is a good idea? Or would you prefer the gentleness of education, enabling your off-spring to avoid the drudgery of menial, physically demanding (and life shortening) work just so some arrogant, entitled, middle class oaf can get more of whatever it is they have and (pointlessly) need more of?"

      Well, if education means you and the rest of the family starve before then, then it's a non-option. It's literally sink or swim for these people, so school unfortunately has to come second to food on the table.

      "Surely the point of westernized politics is to bring everyone up to the same level, not reinforce the cavalier vulgarity of feudalism?"

      But as noted in the Middle East, some societies aren't willing to change. You can't teach a student unwilling to learn; even threats can be blown off with a digitus impudicus. But if that student has significant influence in the international community, they can pass along their hidebound influence, placing you in a Catch-22 as you're now forced (under threat of waning influence) to curb the influence of an anti-Western philosophy that's proud to be anti-Western. Oh, and some of them see MAD as an acceptable scenario, so a threat of force will just be answered with, "My soul is prepared! How is yours?"

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hum,

      I think you've missed the point, pal. TW's argument is that banning child labour because 'child labour is an abhorrence and should not be accepted wherever it is found' has been found to make the situation WORSE: i.e. it results in MORE, WORSE PAID, child labour. A bit like bypasses creating traffic.

      So, if banning produces the opposite of the intended effect, what might actually produce the intended effect? The answer seems to be free school dinners, one benefit of which is that they don't immediately translate to an idle dad whilst the kids still labour.

      Sounds good to me.

    5. peter_dtm

      Re: Hum, - not Western Countries

      he is talking about THIRD WORLD countries - hence the referances to work or starve (and that means that the whole family potentialy starve).

      This is typical of a spoilt western born 'check your privilege' mis understanding; and indicitive of an inability to frame the problem realisiticaly; and hold some understanding of what absolute poverty realy is and means.

      Let's try again to frame the issue :

      The economy is underdeveloped; corrupt and still dependant on menial/manual labour. The economy is incapable of maintaining a level of income for the majority of the citizens that allows them to buy enough food to feed their families.

      There exist a large number of jobs for children which bring in sufficient income to the families to allow subsitance feeding of the whole family. The failure of a single child's income means the family starves (or one or more members - normally the youngest - get kicked out to starve on their own).

      UNDER THESE CONDITIONS banning child labour does not work.

      Banning child labour is a luxury that can only be afforded by high GDP economies. Failure to understand the issue generates the formation of the (virtue signaling) action of the banning of child labour

    6. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Hum,

      Ummm, are you proposing we invade all the countries with child labor and hold them at gunpoint to force them not to use what they consider a perishable asset? That's what it's going to take to force social change in each country. Hell, slavery is still in practice in all too many places as it is.

      I have a high moral standard but damn, unless you are willing to kill people to force change, they are going to conduct themselves according to their moral/ethical framework (if any, but I've found it's a truism, no matter how warped to my eyes, they have one). I've spent thirteen plus years as the spear-point to enforce American interests, so I've put a lot of thought into these issues. What else do you do when the alternative is the same damn movies 0800-2200 for weeks. [I never want to even hear the soundtrack from another Rocky movie again. Now that I'll shoot someone over!].

      I most firmly assert that child labor is anathema to the principles I hold dear, but damn you can't force it unless you are willing to enforce it. Now I'm not about to apply that to apprenticeships, which is essentially low wages while learn to earn. Come to think of it, I know of a society which holds value as an example. Go study the Sikhs and how they handle these issues. Now figure out a way to entice others to that model. Just my $0.02.

  21. ST Silver badge
    FAIL

    flawless logic

    1. Empirical observation: child labor protection laws in India - or elsewhere - have not achieved their intended goal - that of reducing and ultimately eliminating child labor exploitation.

    2. Conclusion: the number of exploited children increased after the enactment of child labor protection laws.

    3. Proposed remedy: abolish child labor protection laws.

    Could it possibly that:

    - before the enactment of child labor protection laws, we did not have a good grasp of the extent of child labor exploitation, simply because, it not being illegal, it was not measured accurately, or at all?

    Here's an analogy:

    A. Empirical observation: before the discovery of the A1C test for diabetes, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes was significantly smaller than after the discovery and availability of the A1C diabetes test.

    B. Conclusion: the availability of the A1C diabetes test increased the number of people affected by diabetes.

    C. Proposed remedy: abolish the A1C diabetes test. This will bring the number of people affected by diabetes to pre-A1C test levels.

    1. Paul Ellis

      Re: flawless logic

      @ST

      '- before the enactment of child labor protection laws, we did not have a good grasp of the extent of child labor exploitation, simply because, it not being illegal, it was not measured accurately, or at all?'

      Doers it matter? Because also fact: there are laws against child labour, yet child labour persists. So, the laws might have reduced child labour, or increased it - perhaps we don't know - but they certainly haven't eliminated it. So what will? Laws by themselves clearly have failed; we still have child labour.

      If the primary goal of a child labouring is to feed itelf, and if that goal is met by a free school meal, plus the schooling itself potentially offers a way out of the poverty trap, I think it's reasonable to expect a significant uptake of the offer, with a commensurate reduction of child labour.

      Support that, would you?

      1. ST Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: flawless logic

        > Doers it matter?

        Yes, it does. If the problem is not measured accurately, then no valid conclusions can be drawn about the problem in the first place.

        > there are laws against child labour, yet child labour persists.

        There are treatments for diabetes, yet diabetes persists. There are antibiotics which kill MRSA, yet MRSA has not been eradicated. Some people still die of MRSA infections, or of diabetes.

        > the laws might have reduced child labour, or increased it - perhaps we don't know

        Exactly: we cannot establish direct causality between the enactment of child labor protection laws, and the increase in the number of exploited children. Before the enactment of legislation against child labor exploitation, there was no accurate measurement of the extent of child labor exploitation.

        No law pretends or purports to completely eradicate the social problem it addresses. Laws against tax cheats have not completely eliminated tax cheats, laws against rape have not completely eliminated rapists, etc.

        What you - and Worstal - are proposing here is making rape legal, and giving the rape victim a 30-day prescription of Valium. That would sharply decrease the number of reported rapes, and the rape victim would feel somewhat better about being raped, because they're now taking Valium.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: flawless logic

          @ST

          You seem to have comprehension difficulties. I suggest you go back & read TW's article again. Carefully this time. If you still don't grasp the gist of it - that he's suggesting replacing something that doesn't benefit children with something that does, read it again.

          1. ST Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: flawless logic

            > You seem to have comprehension difficulties.

            Sez someone with the word "Doctor" in their Internet handle.

            This is the problem with all of Worstal's free-marketeer fanboi club - of which you appear to be a virulent member. Whenever Worstal emits an illogical, inconsistent and self-contradictory doozie - which is most of the time, by the way - you lot resort to ad-hominem attacks and the "oh but you didn't read the article, and you can't possibly understand what Worstal is saying because you have comprehension problems" meme.

            My suggestion to you is: go to Amazon, invest USD $15.32 in the following publication:

            Logic for Dummies

            and start reading on Page 3. You can skip the inner cover, which is Page 1 - it says the same thing as the outer cover.

            After you're done reading it, and if you do all the exercises, there's a chance you'll sound a bit smarter than you currently do.

            1. Tim Worstal

              Re: flawless logic

              Unconvinced that recommending free school dinners is part of any free market fanboi club really.

              1. ST Silver badge

                Re: flawless logic

                > Unconvinced that recommending free school dinners is part of any free market fanboi club really.

                Free school dinners won't stop, prevent, or diminish in any way child labor exploitation. It might provide better-fed children to exploit, but not much else.

                The free-market fanboi-ism comes from the implicit assumption that a child, when faced with a rational choice betwen forced labor and a free school dinner, will always choose the free dinner.

                Problem is, children don't necessarily have a choice in the matter. They might very well be forced into exploitation by their parents, or relatives. Just like some children are forced into marriage for the economic benefit of their parents.

                Absent a statutory constraint - "if you force your child into labor, or if you exploit child labor, you will go to prison" - you can't prevent child labor exploitation.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: flawless logic

                  "Absent a statutory constraint - "if you force your child into labor, or if you exploit child labor, you will go to prison" - you can't prevent child labor exploitation."

                  Problem is, when the edict is so contrary to a norm where one's livelihood or identity are threatened, the law becomes unenforceable. Take the Prohibition Era during America's 1920's. Why did the alcohol trade persist throughout the period despite the threat of the revenuers? Because too many people associated a good drink with enjoying life, and many (like the Irish) felt drinks like whisky were a part of their cultural identity, meaning an attack on whisky was an attack on them. As you proceed into the Great Depression, you reach a point much like the child labor countries now, where it becomes a desperate matter of simply putting food on the table when their normal trade isn't in demand anymore. Given the choice between breaking the law and starving, families will universally invoke the survival instinct and turn to crime. Which is what is happening here. For many impoverished countries, putting the kids to work is basically the only option available for survival, so they're gonna do it in spite of God, Man, or the Devil.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  @ST Re: flawless logic

                  RTFA(rticle)

                  X X X

                  AC

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: flawless logic

              @ST

              'This is the problem with all of Worstal's free-marketeer fanboi club - of which you appear to be a virulent member.'

              I read nothing in TW's piece insisting that free school meals be a free market solution.

              It's entirely possible that some groupthink-bound bureaucrat in Whitehall might have a synapse fire and realise that providing free school meals in pastoral subsistence economies might be a fine use of our Overseas Development tax money. It's entirely possible; but I wouldn't bet on it.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: flawless logic

          @ST

          'What you - and Worstal - are proposing here is making rape legal, and giving the rape victim a 30-day prescription of Valium.'

          Not at all. TW's argument is based on the assumption that the research is sound. Your argument is based on the assumption that the research isn't. Apples and oranges, and that can't be resolved unless the research is peer-reviewed. Has it been?

          If the research is sound, there's a practical reason to repeal child labour bans. However, it's arguable (and I'd tend to agree) that there's a *moral* reason for retaining them. Nevertheless, if the research is sound, the moral bans are making the practical situation worse. What's needed then is a practical, not moral, solution, and, if the research is sound, free school meals appear to be it, or a large part of it.

          I must say, expecting legislation to fix things seems to me more and more like falling for the 'appeal to authority' logical fallacy. How many people do you see driving whilst texting or nattering on a mobile, despite it being illegal? I see it several times every day. Same problem. The legislation is no deterrent.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: flawless logic

        "[...] I think it's reasonable to expect a significant uptake of the offer, [...]"

        Only if the culture does not discriminate about who should go to school and what they are taught. Some religious societies allow girls little or no education. Boys get an education where the most important subject is long hours spent learning to recite the holy texts.

        A friend from an non-religious family in England was at a State secondary school in the 1960s. She was very good at maths and did well at her A Levels. However her father decided that for her, and her sisters, that was sufficient education. University was therefore not an option - even though at that time it was well funded by the State for the relatively small number who went to one.

        She had two brothers - who were not the sharpest knives in the drawer. They were both sent to public (private) boarding schools. The father was in the patriarch mould and his attitude was probably not that atypical for England at that time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: flawless logic

          'Only if the culture does not discriminate about who should go to school and what they are taught. Some religious societies allow girls little or no education. Boys get an education where the most important subject is long hours spent learning to recite the holy texts.'

          Sure enough. But it seems to me that the goal is to eliminate child labour. The fact that some of us might view its replacement as useless is beside the point. The lad in the madrassa is no longer a child labourer. The girl still in the fields is beyond help, for the time being, ironically as a result of what the lad is learning in the madrassa. Cultures take longer to change than many of us would like; certainly longer than the average neocon assumes, and definitely when that culture instills belief in absolute but untestable certainties.

    2. Matt Siddall

      Re: flawless logic

      Could it possibly that:

      - before the enactment of child labor protection laws, we did not have a good grasp of the extent of child labor exploitation, simply because, it not being illegal, it was not measured accurately, or at all?

      Actually, if anything it would be a lot easier to determine who's doing it and how much there is when it is legal, solely because it is legal and thus not something that you'd want to hide.

      Once it's made illegal, people are likely to ask anyone coming round and saying "are you employing child labour" as a risk, and are more likely to hide it.

      1. ST Silver badge

        Re: flawless logic

        > Actually, if anything it would be a lot easier to determine who's doing it and how much there is when it is legal, solely because it is legal and thus not something that you'd want to hide.

        Chewing gum is legal in the US. Does the US Government track gum chewing, just because it is legal and there's nothing to hide?

        I'm pretty sure the US Government monitors heroin usage, and tries to prevent it, because it is illegal.

        For the purposes of this discussion, I'm not concerned with the methods employed in monitoring heroin usage, or whether or not these methods are effective. Generally speaking, I don't agree with those methods, nor do I believe they are effective.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Adding my drop to the ocean...

    Excellent material, well presented. Good job, Tim Worstall.

  23. herman Silver badge

    Intern slave labour

    Yet, in the much beloved and holy Yoo Kay and Yoo Ess Aye, children are forced to work for free as 'interns' - the modern name for an interned slave. This is a custom that was banned twice with anti-slavery and minimum wage legislation, yet practised in the open, in the very houses of government even.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Intern slave labour

      I guess you do not view apprenticeships (internships are basically another form of apprenticeship) in a positive light, either.

    2. Mark Honman

      Re: Intern slave labour

      Interns are not forced to work - it is their choice.

      for my part I benefited greatly from holiday jobs in industry that paid a token amount. It helpmed me decide what I wanted to do with my life, and when looking for real employment I could offer real experience and references.

      Now that I'm an old fart, it has been my pleasure to have interns working with me and to develop their skills and see them move on to fulfilling paid employment.

  24. dc_m

    I'd love to hear this on "thought for the day"

    Would be brilliant!

  25. Mark Morgan Lloyd
    Alert

    Part of the problem is that in the poorer parts of the world the peasantry don't know enough to realise that giving a child enough food is likely to make them stronger: it stands to reason that a youth less emaciated than his father isn't being worked hard enough.

  26. Peter Johnston 1

    Encourage, don't ban child labour

    Banning Child labour is an industrial age thing.

    In the Agricultural Age families worked together in the fields. Children learned how to do farming by doing the simple tasks - milking cows, picking fruit, feeding chickens etc. while their parents did the hard manual stuff and the more dangerous stuff (threshing corn with scythes etc.).

    When the move to the factory happened, this wasn't possible. Kids became a liability and schools were invented as much as a creche as anything. The model for schools was taken from the East India Company, which had created a system for creating bookkeepers (maths) and clerks (written english) for recording transactions and shipments.

    Schools, however, became a self-licking ice-cream with the idea that education led to better jobs and an ever increasing amount of education being "necessary". Whole swathes of people became dedicated to managing the movement of goods rather than making them.These admin jobs became all the more important when automation removed the need for human muscle.

    Now Google has removed the knowledge economy, making learning something anyone can do in their own time and may even enjoy, rather than something governments have to force people to do trough school. We are going back to a skills economy. And the earlier kids start, the better they become - we are now seeing, for example, the YouTube generation of accelerated learning - kids who are coding by the time they are 12, entrepreneurs by 15 and running companies as early a they are allowed to do so. 67% of kids agree they can find a You-Tube video on anything they want to learn.

    In a skills economy, the best way to learn is by doing it alongside someone else. And the best reward for being good at something is making money from it. This will create really strong teenage kids - and if we ban it it will happen somewhere more free.

    We need to rethink our definition of child and our definition of labour. And we need to encourage it and incentivise it, not ban it.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Encourage, don't ban child labour

      @ Peter Johnston 1

      You make some very good points. My problem with school was the lack of subjects- academic, academic, academic or sports. It offered nothing useful in the way of trades (graphic design, woodwork and metalwork were practically useless) and I learned real IT outside of class hours (IT consisted of MS office data entry).

      I would agree that some amount of english, maths, science should be taught but after the basics it would be better to learn from a variety of skills and experiences before choosing a career. After many years of primary school, secondary school and college I went to uni with so many people who had no idea what they wanted to do but they didnt want a job yet. Many of them still didnt when they left uni.

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Encourage, don't ban child labour

      "while their parents did the hard manual stuff and the more dangerous stuff (threshing corn with scythes etc.)."

      Did "threshing corn with scythes" come from a YouTube video? Not so much dangerous as pointless; scythes were used to cut the corn in the field, not to thresh it afterwards.

      </pedant>

      I sometimes worked on a local farm during school holidays; teenage labour rather than "child", but not so long ago that scythes and manual threshing were needed; the combine harvester had been invented, although as often as not the cut grain was tied using a "binder" for threshing back at the farm using a rather antiquated threshing machine.

      </nostalgia>

      1. Fraggle850

        Re: Encourage, don't ban child labour

        Nice pedantry!

        I was tempted to point out that children did work alongside their parents in factories during the industrial revolution, as well as famously being used instead of brushes by chimney sweeps. I demurred on my own pedantry but now that you've started...

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

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