Rights and Wrongs of Children's Work

Rights and Wrongs of Children's Work

Rights and Wrongs of Children's Work

Rights and Wrongs of Children's Work


Rights and Wrongs of Children's Work, authored by an interdisciplinary team of experts, incorporates recent theoretical advances and experiences to explore the place of labor in children's lives and development.

This groundbreaking book considers international policies governing children's work and the complexity of assessing the various effects of their work. The authors question current child labor policies and interventions, which, even though pursued with the best intentions, too often fail to protect children against harm or promote their access to education and other opportunities for decent futures. They argue for the need to re-think the assumptions that underlie current policies on the basis of empirical evidence, and they recommend new approaches to advance working children's well-being and guarantee their human rights.

Rights and Wrongs of Children's Work
condemns the exploitation and abuse of child workers and supports the right of all children to the best quality, free education that society can afford. At the same time, the authors recognize the value, and sometimes the necessity, of work in growing up, and the reality that a "workless" childhood, without responsibilities, is not good preparation for adult life in any environment.


Even if it is not your habit to read book prefaces, please read this one. Before starting to read this book, it is important to understand what it is, and why, and what it is not, and why. And that involves knowing how it got this way.

We are four widely published specialists on “child labor” who share a concern that much current thinking and policy regarding children’s work is wrongheaded and out of kilter with recent social science research and the lessons of experience. We decided to write a book that would express these concerns based on a thorough exploration of available research that would present its findings, critique its methods, and discuss its implications for policy. Below the surface of the wealth of new research that has poured into the field in recent years we find an interesting pattern: the gradual emergence of a critique of the conventional wisdom of “child labor.” This was not necessarily new—a precursor book to this one (Boyden, et al., 1998) and some articles have challenged aspects of the conventional wisdom—but what has not been available is up-todate exposition of research and experience driving these new ideas, and sustained discussion of their implications for policy and practice.

In preparing this book we have consulted many hundreds of sources— many more, in fact, than the 500-plus sources that readers will find in the bibliography—but we have tried to avoid the intimidating and boring reference work that might have resulted, and to keep the book short and readable. This has meant, first, that we have privileged information that we expect to be new to most readers and, second, have reluctantly sacrificed in-depth discussion of some important issues that some readers may have wished to see included. So, what is this book? It is an investigation into the place of work in children’s lives and development, and also into the kinds of policies and interventions that are (and are not) appropriate for ensuring their work is safe and suitable. It is not a book about “child labor.” The following explanation will illustrate why. In his introduction to a large international, comprehensive encyclopedia of child labor, The World of Child Labor (to which all of us have contributed and which is being published as we write), the editor Hugh Hindman posits two general approaches to the topic. The first is a “mainstream” view that regards child labor as harmful, that “entraps whole populations, regions, and nations in . . .

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