A recent article at the Foundation for Economic Education tells the story of Rocky Peter, and how he became an American musician after a childhood of labor in Nigeria. As a child, Rocky and his brother had to work to support themselves. Rocky worked on farms, construction sites, and as an indentured servant to earn money for school and food. After years of hard work, Rocky managed to learn English and immigrate to the United States.
When told stories like this, many condemn child labor. Activist push for bans on child labor, or for boycotts of countries or companies which produce goods with child labor. What activists don’t see is that, by trying to eliminate child labor, they are taking away one of the few tools that children in impoverished countries have to escape bad situations.
Mike Reid at FEE offers this comparison:
Imagine that you find a child dangling off the edge of a cliff, clinging on to the only thing that he can grasp: a length of barbed wire. You can see the wire biting into his hands. You can hear his cries of pain and fear.
Laws that simply ban child labor are like wire cutters. You may save the child from the barbed wire, but condemn him to the fall.
To beat child labor, then, the best way is to offer a better rope.“]
To read the full story of Rocky Peter, check out the full article over at FEE. Then, watch out the video below for more on how banning child labor makes children in developing countries worse off.