A Journalist Actually Addresses "Compared to What" When Discussing Child Labor in the 3rd World

, no less, a site I frequently mock for its economic ignorance.  This is from an article about Adidas totally automating the shoe-making process with robots:

But there's a dark side to all of this, which is what's going to happen to those communities when the sweatshops eventually close. In 1992, US Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation that would block imports of goods produced by children under the age of 15. A year later, the Bangladesh garment industry dismissed 50,000 children in anticipation of the bill, which was never passed. A 1997 report by UNICEF tracked those children, and found that their situation had gotten worse, not better. As the report explains, the children wound up in "hazardous situations" where they were "paid less, or in prostitution."



  1. Richard Arrett:

    Very interesting.

    I imagine the same thing could be said for fast food jobs eliminated in California by the $15/hour wage and subsequent automation of those jobs.

    It would be interesting to follow-up on those jobs and see if those individuals were better off or worse off by trying to provide a living wage for everybody.

  2. sean2829:

    It's also quite interesting to see the evolution of many shoe making factories. The labor intensive shoe industry essentially teaches the work force mass production techniques. After a few years with that the factories realize more money is to be made making different molded products and the best companies start making higher margin items. They continue to move up the margin chain and soon, no one wants to make sneakers anymore because there is more money to be made in higher tech industries. The shoe factories then move on to the next third world country. Those sweat shops are often the first step in the economic development of many countries.

  3. alanstorm:

    No one ever seems to ask the question that should immediately spring to mind when some idiot says "These workers only make the equivalent of $XX per day!" which is,

    "What's the cost of living in Lower Slobovia?"

  4. Gil G:

    So before it Third World unemployment was caused by well-meaning, daft Lefties but now the poorest workers are being displaced by robots?

  5. kidmugsy:

    Remarkable! Journalist works out what an intelligent boy would conclude at fourteen or fifteen.

  6. Nehemiah:

    Well meaning elitists rarely get it right. This is just one example of a feel good intrusion that hurts rather then helps. This happens with big time charity efforts. Hand out non-perishable commodities for free and kill off local entrepreneurs eking out a living making and selling an item now available for free.

  7. CC:

    Elitists can't imagine that people make the best choice available to them. A sweatshop (or the old English factories of Dickens' time) were better than farm life and safer, so people choose that. Amazing.

  8. MJ:

    Well-meaning, daft Lefties have always been a roadblock to employment in Third World countries. The substitution of capital for labor will just be the final nail in the coffin.

  9. Gil G:

    This begs the question of what was wrong with slavery? People didn't enslaved others because they were mean but because work needed doing.

  10. Not Sure:

    So basically, you don't understand the difference between a person freely choosing to do something and being forced by another to do something against his will. Not very bright, are you?

  11. Ann_In_Illinois:

    I lived in Hong Kong for 6 years in the 1990s (teaching at a university there). Over and over again in Asia, I was struck by the vehement hatred and anger for the anti-sweatshop movement. It was generally taken for granted that these were people who were trying to block economic development in poor countries, i.e. people devoting themselves to hurting the poor in third world countries. "We got ours, now we want to stop you from getting yours."

    But this gives the advocates far too much credit for understanding economics. The anti-sweatshop movement is really just a 'let them eat cake' approach by spoiled rich people.

  12. Gil G:

    As said do people really want to enslave people? Not really. However history necessity trump feelings.

  13. Not Sure:

    What's that got to do with people freely choosing the best option for themselves from the choices available?

  14. Gil G:

    Slavery appears in people shortages and disappear in people surplus. Hence modern hygiene and medicine is the trick to keeping slavery at bay not feelings. Abolitionists didn't win because of emotions but capitalised on the fact that slavery was becoming less competitive in an increasing modern age.

  15. Johnnyreb:

    If any of these politicians actually went and traveled to those Countries and spent some time in them like I have, they would leave well enough alone and quit trying to impose their values on a different place and culture.

    A 6 person family living in a one room shack with a dirt floor and a tin roof does not have the options that US Senator Tom Harkin thinks they do.

  16. Kaedwon:

    Workers make less, Americans pay more. You got a problem widdat?