Posts Tagged ‘child labor’

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Apparently, Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage is continuing his push to loosen the state’s child labor laws, arguing that 12-year-old children should not be restricted from working and learning life skills.

“I went to work at 11 years old,” he said at a town hall meeting in 2011. “I became governor. It’s not a big deal. Work doesn’t hurt anybody.”

“I’m all for not allowing a 12-year-old to work 40 hours,” LePage told Down East magazine in an interview published this month. “But a 12-year-old working eight to 10 hours a week or a 14-year-old working 12 to 15 hours a week is not bad.”

LePage earlier backed legislation that would have allowed businesses to pay students $5.25 an hour, rather than the $7.50 minimum wage. That bill was unsuccessful.

 

Note: I just learned that U.S. federal law does not prohibit but only regulates child labor: by limiting the maximum hours of employment for youth between the ages of 14 and 16 years old to 3 hours a day and 18 hours a week on school days and, when school is out, 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week; and by establishing a youth minimum wage of $4.25 per hour for employees under 20 years of age during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer.

There may be all kinds of interesting debates we could have about the nature of socialism in Uzbekistan but one thing is incontrovertible: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transition to capitalism have led to the rise of coerced child labor in cotton production.

As Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson explain,

After independence, farmland that was previously under the control of state-owned firms was distributed to farmers. But they weren’t suddenly free to plant and sell what they wished. The government introduced regulations that determined what they should plant and how much they should sell it for. For cotton, that meant they would receive a tiny fraction of the world market price. For many, it wouldn’t make sense to grow cotton at these prices. But the government dictated that they had to. Before independence, much of the cotton was picked by combine harvesters. Yet given these rewards, farmers stopped investing in or maintaining farm machinery. So coerced child labor was Karimov’s cost-effective method of picking cotton. . .

There was no coerced child labor in Uzbekistan when cotton was produced by state-owned firms.

One other point: Acemoglu and Robinson blame the problem of coerced child labor on the existence of “extractive economic institutions” in Uzbekistan and other poor countries. However, given the definition they use—”economic institutions designed to extract resources from the population and businesses for the benefit of a narrow elite”—which if any forms of capitalism would be excluded?