side bar
Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Letter to the editor: Apprenticing children

In my classes, as I have regularly taught, child labor is a necessity (under certain conditions) if a family is to have more than one meal a day or pay for school. The UNICEF book, What Works for Working Children? makes the same argument for the roughly 400 million working children in the world.

In many instances, child labor is a form of apprenticeship. I have also referred to the same Bangladesh case as Blake Gilson did in his column, "Child labor is not exploitation" (Monday, Opinion) as I was there during the transition to textile export manufacturing. A U.S. Senator who believed children should be in school and not in the labor force ended up doing far more harm than good for Bangladeshi children (see the Journal of Economic Issues article "Child Labor in Bangladesh: A Critical Appraisal of Harkin’s Bill and the MOU-Type Schooling Program".)

I have to take strong issue with the Gilson piece. In my classes, I express opposition to a blanket ban on import of goods made by child labor. In the UNICEF book, it is argued we should focus our attention on abusive child labor that exists in abundance contrary to Gilson’s apparent belief that it does not.

Even where child labor is not abusive, there is always room for well-informed pressure to try to obtain better working conditions and wages and benefits not only for children but for all those in developing countries working in export industries as well

Too much of the policy debates on trade or on developing countries in general is driven by ideology and not understanding of the actual conditions that exist in the real world. The repetition of Friedmanite ideological preachings along with anti-Marxist rhetoric does little to better working conditions in developing countries or our understanding of them.

Thomas R. DeGregori UH professor of economics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑
  • Sign up for our Email Edition

  • Polls

    What about UH will you miss the least this summer?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...