Youth unemployment in Europe and the US; child labor in Asia, Africa and Latin America.We live in a crazy world.Global slowdowns reduce employment for adults, but they can open “opportunities” for cheaper child labor. And in hard economic times, many poor parents need the income their kids can bring in — and don’t have the money for school fees, books and clothes.According to a recent study by the United States’ Department of Labor, child labor is still used to produce some of our most basic products:
India, Bangladesh and the Philippines lead the world in the number of products made by child workers, a US government stock-taking of the global scale of underaged labor revealed.
Some 130 types of goods — from building bricks and soccer balls to pornography and rare ores used in cellphones — involve child labor in 71 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the Department of Labor said.
Like slavery, child labor is a consequence primarily of poverty. As countries get richer, fewer parents feel the pressure that leads the desperately poor to send their kids into full time work in factories or other tough jobs. The best way to fight child labor long term is to support pro-growth, pro-development polices — and to fight protectionism in rich countries so the poor will have a better chance. But countries like Brazil are also finding ways to attack the problem short term — offering poor families income supplements for sending their kids to school, for example.The dismal truth is that tens of millions of children around the world today have lives more like Oliver Twist than Little Lord Fauntleroy; it’s something the rest of us should not forget.