The Political Economy of Child Labor and Its Mpacts on International Business

By Bachman, S. L. | Business Economics, July 2000 | Go to article overview

The Political Economy of Child Labor and Its Mpacts on International Business


Bachman, S. L., Business Economics


RIGHT OR WRONG, PERCEPTIONS THAT GLOBALIZATION LEADS TO EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN ARE BECOMING AN IMPORTANT PROBLEM FOR INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS.

Child labor is linked to global business directly and, more commonly, indirectly. Critics blame increased trade and financial flows for increased child labor, and those criticisms have undermined the legitimacy of further trade and financial liberalization. Companies--including multinationals such as Nike, Wal-Mart, Ikea and the Brazilian subsidiaries of U.S. and European automobile manufacturers--have responded with a range of initiatives. Unless business responses alleviate the worst forms of child labor, the legitimacy of continued trade and financial liberalization will continue to be undermined by perceptions that liberalization disproportionately hurts children, especially child workers.

Children have worked for as long as families have needed all hands to pitch in. Beyond defining work as a means of survival, however, defining what work is appropriate for children and what (if anything) to do about inappropriate work involves more complex judgments--especially for firms doing business in the global economy.

The International Labor Organization estimates that around the world 250 million children between the ages of five and fourteen work, about 120 million of them fulltime. [1] Some of these children work in factories and other workplaces in the formal economy, but the vast majority work in informal enterprises, agriculture and in homes. International firms are part of this economy not only if they hire children, but also if they buy goods or services from children or from companies that make such purchases.

International business has come under increased pressure from social activists, trade unions and others to help find new solutions to end exploitative work for children and to help them get the education and training they need to become productive adults. Companies in the spotlight include respected multi-national corporations as well as many other lesser-known businesses.

Child labor has been a concern of the formal, industrial economy since the beginning of the Industrial Age. By the end of World War II, however, most developed countries had passed laws against child labor, at least in industry. Child labor had declined in developed countries in any case, due to a combination of several factors. These include the increasing sophistication of technology in the workplace (reducing the demand for low-skilled workers), greater productivity and consequently higher wages (reducing the need to send children to work instead of school) and higher school attendance (reducing the supply of child labor).

Child labor re-emerged as a public concern in the 1980s and 1990s. This time, worry was expressed across a broad spectrum of opinion--from United Nations agencies, to non-governmental organizations, educators, social workers, trade unions, cause-driven investors, and the news media--that "globalization" was increasing the incidence of child labor. [2] This time, "child labor" meant more than only children in industry. "Child labor" is now understood to mean children working in both the formal and informal economic sectors, in legal work and illegal occupations such as bonded labor, slavery, soldiering, and prostitution. That poses a new question: What kind of "child labor" should be of concern to international business?

From the disparate groups mentioned above has emerged a global campaign to eradicate child labor. One of the best-known parts of this campaign involves an effort to ban from international trade goods made by children. This linkage between child labor and trade makes child labor at least an indirect concern for many businesses. Even if firms do not themselves employ children, they operate within a global system of commerce, manufacturing, procurement and trade that--in part--does.

The balance of this paper explores the business economics of child labor in four parts. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Political Economy of Child Labor and Its Mpacts on International Business
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.