The Wealth of Children: Reconsidering the Child Labour Debate

  • Olga Nieuwenhuys


The past two decades’ re-emergence of child labour has been explained as the outcome of the globalization of the world economy which has made the work of young children available for exploitation on a previously unknown scale. But how this work is exploited and by whom exactly remains a matter of debate. Dominant economic approaches see in local entrepreneurs the main exploiters and place the responsibility with both governments and parents. Parents, being either risk-averse or lacking in altruism, would offer their children as cheap labour power to profit-hungry entrepreneurs. Detailed anthropological studies, far fewer in number, suggest that this view fails to account for the reciprocity that informs long-term intra-familial exchange relationships and the pivotal place of children therein. Both approaches have their merits, but are unsatisfactory.


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© Olga Nieuwenhuys 2005

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  • Olga Nieuwenhuys

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