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IS CHILD LABOUR ALWAYS WRONG?
Dr Dorte Thorsen,
Gender and Qualitative Research Theme Leader
Migrating out of Poverty Rese...
CHILD LABOUR DEBATE
• Emotive & deeply moral
• Children as dependants
• free of responsibilities
• in school
• leisure tim...
WHAT IS CHILD LABOUR?
• Paid work that deprives children of:
• their childhood
• their potential
• their dignity
• Work th...
FAD FOR STATS
CONTRASTING VIEWS
Abolition of child labour
• Universal labour standards banning child labour
with the aim of preventing h...
CONTRASTING VIEWS
• Academic critiques rooted in child-centred research
• Children may need and choose to work because of ...
RENEWED FOCUS ON CHILD LABOUR
• UK government focus on combatting
modern slavery, trafficking and child
labour
• Inclusion...
TROUBLES WITH THE ‘CHILD LABOUR’ LABEL
• Assumption that keeping children out of
work up to a certain age will keep them
s...
WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOUR
• Instruments like the ILO Convention No. 182
designed to address exploitation and harm
are us...
CHILD LABOUR & CHILDREN’S POTENTIAL
• Causal link in child labour definition between paid
work and deprivation of potentia...
EFFECTIVE POLICIES
• Preventing the exploitation of working children best
done through
➢ Enforcing children’s rights as wo...
For further information
Dorte Thorsen, Email: d.Thorsen@sussex.ac.uk
Co-author of Child Migrants in Africa, Zed Books, 201...
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Is child labour always wrong?

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Presentation given by Dorte Thorsen to a meeting at Chatham House in 2017.

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Is child labour always wrong?

  1. 1. IS CHILD LABOUR ALWAYS WRONG? Dr Dorte Thorsen, Gender and Qualitative Research Theme Leader Migrating out of Poverty Research Consortium, University of Sussex Photo:DorteThorsen Chatham House Forum, London, 20 July 2017
  2. 2. CHILD LABOUR DEBATE • Emotive & deeply moral • Children as dependants • free of responsibilities • in school • leisure time spent playing  European, middleclass childhood Photo:Ecouterre Photo: ChangeInSociety Photo: Make Chocolate Fair UK
  3. 3. WHAT IS CHILD LABOUR? • Paid work that deprives children of: • their childhood • their potential • their dignity • Work that is harmful to physical and mental development  But how can we assess these deprivations? Photo: Dorte Thorsen Photo:DorteThorsen
  4. 4. FAD FOR STATS
  5. 5. CONTRASTING VIEWS Abolition of child labour • Universal labour standards banning child labour with the aim of preventing harm, exploitation and trafficking • To increase participation in formal schooling (EFA/UPE)
  6. 6. CONTRASTING VIEWS • Academic critiques rooted in child-centred research • Children may need and choose to work because of social and economic rewards • Labour standards to protect working children, not criminalise them ➢ Uncertain link between work and trafficking ➢ Challenging universalism - need to know more about the context of children’s lives Photo:DorteThorsen
  7. 7. RENEWED FOCUS ON CHILD LABOUR • UK government focus on combatting modern slavery, trafficking and child labour • Inclusion of minimum age standards for work (ILO Convention No. 138) in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child
  8. 8. TROUBLES WITH THE ‘CHILD LABOUR’ LABEL • Assumption that keeping children out of work up to a certain age will keep them safe and in school • Minimum standards incorporated in legislation ➢ Younger children barred from formal employment and pushed into invisible and harmful work ➢ Older children may be exposed to exploitation and harm as legislation is tied to age not the work conditions Photo: Jaaay Nguyen, Emaze
  9. 9. WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOUR • Instruments like the ILO Convention No. 182 designed to address exploitation and harm are useful • But only if we understand the nature of the work children are doing ➢ Age-appropriate work ➢ How labels are used locally Photo:DorteThorsen Photo:DorteThorsen
  10. 10. CHILD LABOUR & CHILDREN’S POTENTIAL • Causal link in child labour definition between paid work and deprivation of potential • Ignores that • Adolescents work to finance their own schooling or vocational training • Adolescents learn through work – specific occupations and navigating the (informal) labour market Photo: Dorte Thorsen
  11. 11. EFFECTIVE POLICIES • Preventing the exploitation of working children best done through ➢ Enforcing children’s rights as workers ➢ Enforcing protection through the ILO Convention No. 182 but based on detailed knowledge about working conditions • Enable education through ➢ Increasing quality of education ➢ Reducing formal and informal costs of schooling Photo:DorteThorsen
  12. 12. For further information Dorte Thorsen, Email: d.Thorsen@sussex.ac.uk Co-author of Child Migrants in Africa, Zed Books, 2011 Author of: Weaving in and out of employment and self-employment: young rural migrants in the informal economy of Ouagadougou. International Development Planning Review, 2013. Jeans, bicycles and mobile phones. Adolescent migrants' material consumption in Burkina Faso. In: Child and youth migration. Mobility-in- migration in an era of globalization Palgrave MacMillan, 2014.

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