CHILD LABOR PRACTICES INTERNATIONALLY, AND THE ILL EFFECTS IT HAS ON CHILDREN AND THE SOCIETIES THEY LIVE IN

Contrary to popular belief in our country, child labor is alive and well in many parts of the world.  Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Asia and the Pacific are areas where the practice is most evident.  The one commonality that these countries have with each other is poverty.  Non-elite families in these countries have to scrape just to earn enough money for food, and starvation is often the alternative to either pressing their children into local labor or actually selling their children into some type of slavery.  It is a complex problem that tends to justify itself out of economic necessity.

There are numerous articles on this subject.  The estimates for how many children are participants in the child labor market vary widely.  From what I could find, they go from 100 million all the way to 218 million as of 2018, being that there is no official count of child laborers, so these are guesses.  Regardless, this is a major problem in 3rd world countries.  Poverty seems to generate this societal problem.

That is the crux of the problem, poverty.  Poverty drives the need for additional income.  The exploitation of children is a logical approach to acquire additional income, but the unintended consequences are severe.  When children are exploited in the workplace, they have a much higher rate of physical injury, due to the propensity to be put in dangerous job situations, and their lack of experience using dangerous tools and lack of PPE’s to protect their health.  Young children are put in a position where they can be permanently damaged physically which will have a direct relationship on their earning ability later on in life. 

In some countries, primarily in Africa, children are drafted into the military or paramilitary groups, with a high rate of mortality.  They also are often drafted into the international sex trade, subject to disease and early death.  Those that survive these conditions to adulthood are then saddled with serious mental health issues.

Child labor practices also preclude 3rd world societies from economic and social improvement.  Children engaged in work are not being educated and that perpetuates the cycle of poverty, with no way out.  This is the true moral dilemma of the practice.  With no way out of the cycle, poverty appears to be a permanent fixture in those affected societies. 

It is morally reprehensible for child labor to be a permanent fixture.  The big question is how to stop this vicious cycle and give these children and their countries the ability to advance up the economic and societal ladders to join the rest of the world in peace and prosperity.  We, as citizens in the 1st world can insist on our retail buyers to only source goods from companies that do not use child labor.  We can crack down on child sex trafficking and insist on children not being used in militaries.  That would put a dent in the problem, but the underlying reason for the practice, poverty, would not then in any way be addressed. 

Most if not all of these countries do not have the assets to fund adequate public schools, or to offer any government assistance to poor families that would be educating, rather than working their children.  It points to the need for the international community, possibly the United Nations, to have a dramatic push to assist these countries in developing their children through education.  Supplanting family incomes through food distribution in order to make it possible to educate children for the future, rather than to work them for present needs.  Only then would the international community have an impact on this problem.

Now the question is, will anything actually get done?  Most of these countries that embrace child labor are corrupt dictatorships or pseudo-democracies that would have little interest in change, unless it had a direct and immediate benefit to their income and power.  Chances are that any assistance, if offered, would not trickle down to those that needed it most.  With Nationalism on the rise, it would be doubtful that many countries would be interested in contributing to costly programs that would have little if any direct benefit to their immediate national interests.  With political leaders worldwide mostly focused on “short-term” interests, it is doubtful that this problem will be eradicated any time soon.

WHAT IS TRADE PROTECTIONISM, AND WHAT ARE THE ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES?

Image result for pictures of protectionist trade

Trade protectionism are restrictions on the free flow of international trade, and it takes on many forms.  The intention is to protect a nation’s economic well-being.  It can take the form of tariffs to protect home industries from foreign competition by levying fines to make the outside goods less competitive.  It can be quotas, which are restrictions of certain goods that can be imported from other nations.  It can be subsidies, which are payments made by a government to a private industry, which can be direct cash transfers, lines of credit (low interest), or government ownership of common stock.  Governments can also impose local content requirements in order to internalize at least a portion of the manufacturing of the finished good.  Rules and regulations can also be put in place by governments to make it next to impossible for imports to enter the country.  Antidumping policies can be enforced to prevent other nations from selling their oversupply of goods at below the cost of manufacturing.  Currency manipulation is also a method of restricting imports while lowering the cost of a nation’s exports, much like what China does today.

All of these methods restrict free international trade, some for good reason, and many just to protect inefficient industry in their own country.  Politicians use reasons like “protecting our legacy industries” in order to sell the idea.  They also sell trade restrictions on the basis of national interest, protecting industries that support the military complex, thus making it a matter of national defense.  Administrative trade policies are often initiated on the argument that it protects the safety and health of consumers, and so to anti-dumping policies are also sold to the electorate as some sort of protection from unfair foreign competition.

The consequence is that consumers pay more for less.  The politicians that implemented these restrictions usually get re-elected because they did their job of selling the policies in question as a net “benefit” to the electorate, protecting health, safety, national defense, or a variety of other reasons left to the creative processes of these same political actors.  Other possibly unintended consequences are inflation cause by currency manipulation, trade wars, and infant or legacy industries that intentionally do not modernize for efficiency because of artificial protection.

Most economists believe that these types of protectionist activities do more harm than good.  Few economists agree with President Trumps contention that tariffs can be used exclusively for bargaining chips to eventually lower most if not all trade barriers.  Time will tell if President Trump is right, but so far, he has re-negotiated NAFTA to the mutual benefit of all involved, has China close to a rightly needed agreement on fair trade, and has the EU coming somewhat closer to the negotiating table.  If he loses this bet it could cost him the election in 2020.  A side-note is that congress has to ratify these re-negotiated agreements, and the Democrat House is refusing to put the re-negotiated NAFTA agreement on the floor for a vote in order to stop the President from having a political victory before the 2020 election.