Full Text Sharing

I bet if you live in Kathmandu or in many other parts urban parts of Nepal you have noticed how many jobs are handled by children, working in restaurant, in the public transportation industry or as domestic helpers. Quite a common thing, isn’t?

It is such a pervasive phenomenon that, although you detest it, you actually end up getting used and live with it.

Generated by extreme poverty, complex ethnic and cultural hierarchies reflecting widespread inequalities and different patterns of power relations, child labor is a societal plague that can be overcome only if it is tackled from a realistic or better an economic point of view.

The reality, although sad, is that working children are first and foremost economic actors and they do significantly contribute to the national GDP.

I am currently reading the biography of Lincoln, one of the most prominent presidents America has ever produced who fought a civil war over the issue of slavery.

What was a clash of ideals and principles was also a symptom of different and conflicting economic interests.

A real plague in the northern states of the Union was actually an economic lifeline for its southern part whose economy was commodities dependent.

Similarly child labor is not just a symptom of ignorance, disregard of human rights and outright infringement of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) but essentially an economic issue.

Child labor is about cheap labor in a country plenty of examples of workers’ exploitation: low salaries, no written contracts, no social securities (ask yourself why you see a high number of people owing a car but opting to have a driver….).

In short child labor is intrinsically a key component of the huge informal, black economy.

This leads to recognize working children as active economic agents. I know how controversial this sounds but the reality is that working children are often the real breadwinners of their families back in remote villages.

Taken away their meager remuneration and entire families already living below the poverty line in the poorest corners of the country will disappear into the shadow of absolute misery.

If we follow an economic logic to child labor we need to think, paradoxically, about factors and conditions that make child labor so indispensible and to some extents, an effective anti poverty tool.

While we have infinite numbers of studies on the economic impact of remittances, we do not have any real study that look at the economic implications of child labor.

By looking at child labor through utilitarian lens with its “trickle down” effects on the local economies, we must select a minimum set of rights to be absolutely respected by any user of child labor.

While understanding the peril to downsize and reverse cardinal human rights, a minimalistic but practical approach will allow a practical win win situation for children, their families and their employers.

The approach calls for a basic framework would be centered on right to health, the right to education, a strong commitment to a fair payment and the obligation to offer “family” leaves so that children can spend every year time with their own parents and siblings.

In few words, a working child must enroll in a school or be part of flexible learning schemes tailored made for them, they must be healthy and in touch with his or her family.

In addition, the users of child labor should mandatorily contribute to a special child protection fund, a sort of special taxation to further discourage the practices while raising resources to create awareness about the issue.

Being child labor a criminal offense according to the law of the country, a special amnesty for the perpetrators should be allowed.

Within a certain timeframe employers should come forward and sign up to the initiative. Those who opt out should be fully prosecuted with a reinvigorated and much harsher legislation.

NGOs capable of thinking outside the box will act as “guarantors” ensuring the respect of legally valid “compacts” between the families of the children and the employees.

Provided these undeniable conditions are respected together in a package, children should be allowed to keep their jobs while the employers of child work will realized that child labor does not come so cheap and has some caveats.

This solution is only a sort of stopgap attempt to incrementally improve the living conditions of a hidden “army” of young workers all around us.

A “freezing” of the CRC with few but well enforced rights will offer a real opportunity to improve the living conditions of working children while recognizing their contributions to the national economy.

An overall increase of opportunities for youth, more inclusive economic policies, limited affirmative action policies and most importantly a strong social protection system at grassroots level with strong elements of child protection can dismantle the economic advantages of employing invisible workers.

Only drastic changing patterns in the economy and therefore in the society will lead to full compliance of all child human rights instruments, ensuring a more dignified life for all the children the world over and not only for few of them.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good


Good article

This piece makes so much sense.

 I is really good to see that

 I is really good to see that some one looks at the issue of child labour beyond the "right based "approach and treats it what it is : Primarily an economic issue.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

About Us

The idea is simple: creating an open “Portal” where engaged and committed citizens who feel to share their ideas and offer their opinions on development related issues have the opportunity to do...


Please fell free to contact us. We appreciate your feedback and look forward to hearing from you.

Empowered by ENGAGE,
Toward the Volunteering Inspired Society.