Call edition 2012

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Determinants of child labour

Bert VERCAMER student laureate
bert@vercamer.be

°1979 Belgium
Licence in economic sciences, Universiteit Gent, Belgium, 2001

Determinanten van kinderarbeid

In his thesis to obtain the title of “licentiaat” in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ghent, Bert Vercamer studies the determinants of child labour in developing countries. He starts with a review of some recent theoretical models from the economics literature, in which child labour is presented as a rational but second best decision by parents under the pressure of household poverty and external factors, such as badly functioning capital markets. The insights from these models are discussed and confronted with the results of empirical research. Major determinants of child labour are discussed. Traditionally, household poverty is regarded as the main determinant, but the author draws attention to several sociological factors and the effects of policy decisions. To this effect, he offers a selective and well-structured review of the literature. A chapter is devoted to education, in which the importance of affordable primary education is highlighted, but in which some other aspects are also discussed, such as the timing of the school year and the content of the programmes. Another chapter is devoted to a discussion of sociological variables, more specifically sex of the child, family size, sex and education of the head of the family, and rural versus urban environment. At the end of the thesis the author presents the results of a regression analysis he performed with cross-section data for developing countries. The following variables come out as significant: poverty, illiteracy, education spending by the public sector, urbanisation, and, above all, income inequality. These results confirm those of more detailed research, but the large influence of income inequality is striking. The author is prudent in his policy conclusions and he leaves the question open whether the rest of the world has an important role to play in reducing child labour in poor countries. The study emphasises national factors: economic growth, spending on primary education, and reduced inequality.

report by Prof. Dr. Robrecht Renard, Institute of Development Policy, Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium