Fair Trade and Child Labor
63 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2011 Last revised: 16 Sep 2013
Date Written: April 26, 2011
Child labor is a global problem that has attracted much discussion. Various solutions proposed include attempts at improving international compliance with human rights standards, levying of trade sanctions or boycotts, and increasing legislation and prosecution of crimes. None of these solutions have achieved more than marginal success, largely because they are rarely enforced and ignore the root causes of child labor and global market forces.
The use of fair trade labeling to combat child labor is an approach that has received virtually no attention in the legal community. Yet, primary qualitative research and case studies presented here illustrate that fair trade should be considered as a proven alternative to current strategies to eliminate child labor. First, it relies on market incentives and private monitoring with effective punishments of noncomplying fair trade companies. Second, it is voluntary and private, avoiding the political problems with international monitoring which rarely end in enforcement or penalties. Third, unlike prosecutions that focus on a small number of the resulting problems of child labor and trafficking, fair trade focuses on improving incomes, working conditions, health, and education of a large number of workers.
Keywords: child labor, fair trade, human trafficking, global economy, prosecution, child trafficking, employee rights, law, malawi, private monitoring, international monitoring, trade sanction, boycott, human rights
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