In This Review

What Works for Working Children
What Works for Working Children
By Jo Boyden, Birgitta Ling and William Myers
364 pp, Rodden Barna And Unicef, 1998

Dramatized by cases of egregious child abuse, child labor around the world has come under heavy criticism in recent years and has provoked calls for action through trade policy and consumer awareness to discourage the practice. In contrast, this book offers a thoughtful, reasoned, and empirically supported case for child labor in many circumstances. The authors draw on extensive research, especially by Sweden's Save the Children, to support their case that activists should look at child labor from the perspective of children's interests. In many societies, the authors argue, working at a young age is an important component of child development that builds self-respect, cultivates abilities to cope, and helps alleviate poverty for the children and their families. This vantage point leads them to conclude that although unhealthy or dangerous work and abusive working conditions should be avoided, work often contributes positively to child development. Children's advocates should acknowledge and recognize such differentiation, they argue, and above all they should seek out and respect children's views in framing policies toward child labor.