The effect of trade liberalization on child labor

Type Journal Article - Journal of International Economics
Title The effect of trade liberalization on child labor
Volume 65
Issue 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2005
Page numbers 401 -
The question of how trade liberalization affects the employment of children in developing economies is at the core of the debate on globalization. Trade theory predicts that an increase in the price of an exported good could either increase or decrease child labor depending on the magnitudes of the substitution and income effects. In this paper, we study the relationship between changes in the relative price of an exported commodity and child labor using household-level data from within a poor country. In particular, we relate child labor to regional and intertemporal variation in the real price of rice surrounding national and international rice market integration in Vietnam. We find that higher rice prices are associated with declines in child labor. Income effects play an important role in this relationship. Rice price increases are associated with the largest declines in child labor in households that are large net producers of rice. These findings show that greater market integration can be associated with less child labor. Moreover, our results suggest that the use of punitive trade sanctions on exports from developing countries to eradicate child labor is unlikely to yield the desired outcome.

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