January 10th, 2018
Evaluating the Use of Child Labour in a Global Economy
Use of child labour in economic activities, although a historic aspect, presents challenges for social and economic development. Despite the declining trend in child labour noted in recent decades (Basu 1999), the persistent high prevalence necessitates continued efforts to eradicate the practice. Of importance in such eradication efforts, are corporations that use child labour as a means of cost reduction by hiring children at lower wages. Nevertheless, in the contemporary business environment where entities are required to assume their social responsibility roles and the rise of a consumer who pays attention to corporate ethical practices, failure to shun child labour predisposes the entity to uncertain future. As such, and as supported by the dignity, fairness and citizenship principles of the global business standard codex, entities need to formulate policies against the use of child labour in their business and those of their partners, to ensure a future marked by sustainable growth.
In the contemporary business environment, pursuit of ethical business practices has become necessary as evident from cases of failure of initially successful businesses due to disreputable practices. One of such practices is the use of child labour, which, although being supported by some authors in the 18th century (Basu 1999, p. 1089), has subsequently been shown to have adverse outcomes on the children, and society at large. For instance, studies in different countries have shown that child labour affects children’s participation in education and their health (Khanam & Ross 2011; Lee 2007; Huebler 2006). Since poverty, as noted by Huebler (2006), is a significant determinant of child labour, continued practice of child labour at the expense of education attainment establishes a cycle that would be difficult to break. For instance, when children engaged in child labour fail to perform well in their education, the job opportunities and chances for higher incomes in their adult life would be lower. As such, such children would be more likely to raise families in poor conditions thus encouraging their children to also engage in child labour.
In the global business standard codex, as proposed by Paine et al. (2005), one of the principles that establish a need to combat child labour is the dignity principle. The dignity principle, as advanced by Paine et al. (2005) proposes a need for entities to respect and protect human rights, health and safety (p. 128). Additionally, it advances that companies should show preference for business partners that “respect international labor standards on health and safety” in their business operations (Paine et al. 2005, p. 128). Such provision establish the need for entities to discourage child labour in both its direct (hiring children) and indirect (obtaining products or services from partners hiring children) forms. This follows the indications that child labour contributes to lower engagement in school, adverse health outcomes, and exploitative wages for the children concerned (Khanam & Ross 2011; Lee 2007; Huebler 2006; Basu 1999). However, a challenge to the dignity principle arises where children’s engagement in work offers a means for subsistence in poor settings.