Should we boycott child labour ?
Article [Version of Record]
Is part ofÉthique et Économique / Ethics and Economics ; vol. 1
Publisher(s)Centre de recherche en éthique de l'Université de Montréal
In high income countries, there is nearly universal popular support for boycotts against products using child labor or punitive sanctions against countries with high levels of child labor. This essay assumes that the reason for this popular support is a concern for the well- being of these child laborers. Consumer boycotts or sanctions should then be viewed by advocates as successful if they make children in low-income countries better off. This essay argues that much of the popular debate on boycotts and sanctions suffers from a failure to consider what children will do if they are not working. To answer this question, the responsible activist or policymaker must understand why children work. While some circumstances of child laborers are so insidious that policies even more aggressive than boycotts may be justified, most of the work performed by children in low income countries reflects the desperateness of their family's poverty. For these cases, if consumer boycotts diminish the earnings power of children, then the incidence of the boycott can be on the poorest of the poor. In this sense, a consumer boycott of products made with child labor can be equivalent to a consumer boycott of poverty relief for both child laborers and their families.