Child Labor Is Going Out of Style

A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 23 2013 9:25 AM

Child Labor Is Going Out of Style

A boy shovels sand at the Sadat Ltd. Brick factory, where some children work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. dailyin Kabul, Afghanistan.

Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Some excellent news today from the International Labor Organization's quadrennial report on child labor—the employment-to-population ratio for kids is down strongly around the world, and the share of kids engaged in hazardous work is falling at a nice rate as well.

It's a reminder that despite a bad four years for the U.S. economy and a terrible four years for the European economy, we are living through what are probably the best of times on a global basis. Living standards are improving in most developing countries, and you see that both in income statistics and also in broader social indicators like this one:


Even better a decline in child labor should lay the groundwork for more good things in years to come. Child labor keeps kids out of school—its decline ought to mean a better-educated population and more economic growth in years to come. It will probably come as no surprise that child labor conditions are worst in the sub-Saharan Africa region, where 21.4 percent of kids are in child labor, but due to the Asia/Pacific region's much larger population, that's still the place where the largest raw quantity of child laborers is found.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


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