The Instigator
Con (against)
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The Contender
Pro (for)
12 Points

Child labour in the developing countries should be banned

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/30/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 25,418 times Debate No: 44878
Debate Rounds (4)
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Votes (2)




Child labour in the third world nations is beneficial to the children.

First of all, it provides the children with an option of earning a form of income through legal means. In many developing countries, hundreds of thousands of children are suffering from poverty. This lack of monetary resource forces children to support themselves and their family through illegal means. As most criminals commit their first illicit act during their childhood, legalizing child labour will decrease the overall crime rates in those countries.

Secondly, children have right to work if they choose to. Whatever their race or their age are, they still possess the right any humans should have. By disallowing children to work, you are inadvertently taking away their right to live. If they cannot earn through legal work, they will either die or find other means of earning which involves horrific criminal activities that will kill either or both the physical existence of children and the soul and the innocence children possess innately.

More arguments will follow soon!


I thank my opponent ‘seewok123’ for initiating what is surely going to be an interesting debate.

The resolution of this debate is that ‘Child labour in the developing countries should be banned.’ As Con, my opponent is arguing that child labour in developing countries should not be banned. As Pro, I am arguing that child labour in developing countries should be banned.

I note that my opponent has not provided a definition of ‘child labour,’ so I will provide one here. Child labour, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is “the employment of children in an industry or business, especially when considered illegal or exploitative." [1] I also note that my opponent also switches between ‘developing countries’ and ‘Third World countries.’ However, those two terms are not necessarily the same thing. For instance, China is considered a developing country [2], but is not a Third World country; instead it is a Second World Country! [3]

I now pass this debate over to my opponent, who may continue his case against the banning of child labour in developing (Third World?) countries. I will present my case for the banning of child labour in developing (Third World?) countries in the next round.

I hope for an intriguing debate!




Debate Round No. 1


I looked into the definition of child labour and you are right, the Oxford Dictionaries does list child labour as "the employment of children in an industry or business, especially when considered illegal or exploitative." However, I have also came across several different definitions as to what is considered a child labour. UNICEF defines it as the "percentage of children aged 5 to 14 years of age involved in child labour activities at the moment of the survey" [1]. As the opposition has stated in the definition, some forms of child labour is illegal and exploitative, but banning all means of work for children is absurd. Even if child labour is some how successfully banned, the children will continue to seek for sources of income because they have no other choice. What most of these children turn to would be criminal activities. Since child labour is hypothetically illegal, anything that the children do in order to raise money for their impoverished families, often without a stable, supportive adult, would be illicit. The prohibition of child labour will most likely worsen the already terrible working conditions. Instead of banning child labour, which turns hundreds of thousands of children into criminals, the world should focus more on improving the environment and the nature of the work the children are taking parts in.

I apologize for the confusion between the terms I have used. I will stick to developing countries.

I am looking forward to hear the arguments of the con!



I thank Con for his clarifications and thought-provoking arguments.

In this round, I shall make two contentions, that if demonstrated to be correct, I believe makes a strong case for the banning of child labour in developing countries. They are:

  • Child labour has negative impacts upon children’s health.
  • Child labour impedes upon the children’s education, which is vital for the child’s future prospects.

My first contention is that child labour has negative impacts upon children’s health. To strengthen this claim, I will provide two studies that demonstrate that this is true.

The first study, conducted by François-Charles Wolff, and Maliki, surveys the impact on health that child labour has on Indonesian students, aged between 10-15 simultaneously involved in school and labour. [1] One measure they have used, is to compare the amount of health complaints between non-working and working children. They find a negative correlation, as the working children have more health complaints than the non-working. Wolff and Maliki write: “Working children tend to have more complaints than non-working children and that activities are more likely to have disrupted due to their health problems. [2]

In the conclusion, of the report, Wolff and Malaki write: “We have investigated the effects of working activities on health among Indonesian children aged 10–15 years enrolled in school. Results from both descriptive statistics and regressions with the labor participation assumed exogenous leads to a negative correlation between working and health. [5]

Another study that demonstrates that child labor is harmful to the worker’s health, was conducted by Roggero, who examined the impacts of health that child labour has had on a wide range of developing countries. [6]The authors demonstrate a relationship between mortality rates, undernourishment and child labor prevalence, for children aged between 10-14, with mortality rates and undernourishment significantly higher in places where child labor is prevalent. [7]The authors also introduced controlled variables in order to distinguish what causes such high mortality rates, confirming that child labour is a significant cause.[8]

In some cases, the health of the children working are significantly jeopardized. For instance, in Mali, between 20000 to 40000 children, some as young as six, work in artisanal mining, an enterprise that, according to, is carried out through ‘low technology or with minimal machinery.’ [9] [10] Human Rights Watch, reports that the children are exposed to mercury, a substance that is devastating to the nervous system. [11] Furthermore, the children are often subjected to searing pain in parts of the body such as necks and backs through carrying heavy weights. [12]

Examples as dangerous as the above are not rare. In some cases, children work in the sex industry, which may lead to HIV/AIDS, . [13]Other children work in the drug trade, facing the danger of being a victim of violence, and being caught by police, which may lead to imprisonment. [14] An even more horrendous activity which some children must undertake in order to gain income is armed conflict. The International Labour Organization reports that children are used in fighting in “at least 17 countries in different regions around the world,” and that “they were taken under duress and ignorance of the consequences.” [15]

Another reason why child labour should be banned in developing countries is because it impedes on the child's education.

In a report written for the International Labour Organization, Federico Blanco Allais and Frank Hagemann support this claim, through analyzing data from the SIMPOC surveys. [16] They write: “There is a strong effect of child labour on school attendance rates. Cross-country data reveal that with increasing levels of economic activity of children, school attendance rates decline. There is often a significant “school attendance gap” between working and non-working children. Many child labourers are constrained in their school attendance by long hours of work or difficult working conditions. Others do not attend at all. “[17]

Allais and Hagemann also demonstrate that this leads to a lower quality of performance from the child in school. They show that there is a clear negative correlation between grade repetition and child labour, for children aged from 7-14 years. [18]

There are several reasons why this is significant.

First, it makes it more likely for the child to dropout. Allais and Hagemann note that it: “results in over-age children relative to their grade. Since school and curricula are structured in terms of age and grade levels, and flexibility is not usually a feature of public mass education systems, over-age children are at a higher risk of becoming dropouts. “[19]

The second reason why this is significant is because it wastes money and resources, which, in developing countries, also could be used for purposes such as buying new textbooks.

Hence, we have seen a brief summary why the legalization of child labour has negative effects upon education. In their conclusion, the authors write: “Child labour has to be taken seriously as an important obstacle to reaching the Education for All goals.” [20]

Investing in education would have a very positive effect. Fran Roesaelaers, the director of the International Labour Organization’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, in an interview with BBC states that investing in education could return $5-7 for every $1 spent.

Ensuring that children have good access to education is vital for developing countries. First, it ensures that the workforce in the future is a trained workforce, which is economically beneficial. Second, it ensures that the average worker has a far higher salary, which benefits the worker, as he/she can support his/her family. Thirdly, due to workers having far more money, the government obtains more tax, meaning that it can continue focusing on educational and social programmes.

In conclusion, I have established two reasons why child labour in developing countries should be banned. Firstly, child labour has negative impacts on the child’s health, with the child experiencing more illnesses and being more likely to die, and secondly, child labour impacts on the child's educational development.

[1] Wolff, F & Maliki. 2008, ‘Evidence on the impact of child labor on child health in Indonesia, 1993-2000,’ Economics and Human Biology, pp.143-169

[2] Wolff, F & Maliki. 2008, ‘Evidence on the impact of child labor on child health in Indonesia, 1993-2000,’ Economics and Human Biology pp. 151

[3], [5] Wolff, F & Maliki. 2008, ‘Evidence on the impact of child labor on child health in Indonesia, 1993-2000,’ Economics and Human Biology pp. 167


[6], [7], [8] Roggero 2007, ‘The Health Impact of Child Labor in Developing Countries: Evidence from Cross-Country Data,’ Am J Public Health, vol 97(2) pp. 271-275

[9], [11], [12] Human Rights Watch. 2011, ‘A Poisonous Mix: Child Labor, Mercury, and Artisanal Mining in Mali’ Human Rights Watch, Dec. 2011


[14] Child Labour: A Textbook For University Students, pp. 16


[16], [17], [18], [19], [20] Blanco Allias, F & Hagemann F. 2008, ‘Child labour and education: Evidence from SIMPOC surveys,’ International Labour Organization, June. 2008


Debate Round No. 2


I find the statistics very interesting and thank the proposition for sharing them with us.

I would like to begin this round by asking some questions and rebutting some of the arguments proposed by my opponent.

Yes some environment may be hazardous to children employees. However, would their environment be better if they cannot work to feed their families? Would extreme poverty, which also causes death and diseases, better than working to survive? Although both options are horrible, wouldn't it be better for a child to die knowing they they have at least tried to survive and worked for the lives of their loved ones than to die slowly from starvation suffering from guilt that they haven't done anything even though their younger siblings are on the verge of death and would likely die soon anyway? It is an obvious fact that accidents occur in working locations. However, aren't risks necessary to achieve advancement and development of any kind? Is working in illegal activities such as drug dealing, stealing or even murdering better than working in a mine or a factory?

In order to prevent and reduce the number of children involved in horrendous activities the Pro has mentioned such as armed conflict and sex industry, children should be allowed to work in various legal industries such as manufacturing and agriculture. Since working in the sex industry and armed conflict is already illegal and condemned, banning child labour does not affect those already involved in them. Not allowing children to work in industries that would actually possess some beneficial sides such as contribute to the economy of the country, would only increase the number of children working in those areas.

As for education, no matter how "free" education system are supposed to be, they do require quite a sum of money for children to attend. Indirect costs such as uniforms, books, writing utensils, transportation, lunches and even field trips. When families cannot feed themselves, they certainly do not have enough money to cut off their often only source of income and send the children to school. As for the children's achievement in school, it is very rare for children to do well when they have no food, no books and missing a variety of factors that contribute to the pursuit of knowledge.

In addition, education is a long term solution. Educating children do not improve their conditions. As I mentioned, it may worsen them. The cost of providing proper educational system is too great for many developing countries to handle. Books do not save children when they are starving. Money for food does.

I also question the practicality of successfully implementing the ban on most, if not all. developing countries.

In this round, I will explore the economic aspect of child labour.

In the research Professors Sylvain Dessy and St"phane Pallage published on the Economic Journal, they concluded that banning child labour specifically the worst kinds including drug-trafficking, underground mining, deep-sea fishing,
bondage, prostitution, etc. can have harmful effect on the economy as a whole.[1] They state that when the worst forms of child labour reflect a choice, it can only be so because they pay substantially better than other forms, considered non-harmful. In this case, the research shows that the existence of a market for the worst forms of child labour helps to keep wages in the market for the "good' forms of child labour sufficiently high to help poor families finance
their children's education. A ban on any form of industries will crowd all the labour resources (children) into other industries. The increase on the availability of labour source decrease the overall wages of the workers thus further incapacitating the ability for the family to survive and send their children to schools.

I am not arguing that extreme industries should be encouraged and good. Rather, I am merely pointing out that these industries are integrated into the economy in developing countries and that simply banning these would have no or adverse effects.

Instead of banning child labour, I believe that measures to alleviate poverty such as the food-for-education programme are more effective and efficient in improving the lives of the children.



I thank Con for such an interesting debate. Knowing nearly nothing about the subject at the beginning of the debate, researching and debating this was both fun and educational.

In this round, I will be exploring the relationship between child labour and economics, both at a micro (family) and a macro (national) level. I will argue, that on an overall basis, illegalizing child labour would have a positive impact on both a micro and macro level. Some of my arguments will also serve as a rebuttal to Con’s points.

It is universally accepted, from scholars, that child labour, on a short term basis increases household income. Cartwright (1999), for instance, demonstrates that in Colombia, child labour, on average contributes 21% of a family’s income. [1] Con rightly points out that, in many circumstances this is the difference between survival and death.

However, on a long term basis, the legalization of child labour can be detrimental towards a family’s income, and is ineffective in taking the family out of poverty. This is also a well-accepted fact. Galli (2001), for instance, writes “children sent to work do not accumulate (or under-accumulate) human capital, missing the opportunity to enhance their productivity and future earnings capacity. This lowers the wage of their future families, and increases the probability of their offspring being sent to work. [2]Roggero et,al (2007), agree: ‘Long term, the underaccumulation of human capital caused by low school attendance and poor health is a serious negative consequence of child labor, representing a missed opportunity to enhance the productivity and future earnings capacity of the next generation. Child laborers grow up to be low-wage–earning adults; as a result, their offspring will also be compelled to work to supplement the family’s income.” [3]

But, I note that Con has somewhat dealt with this, so I move on, and critique his ideas later.

I have already demonstrated, from citing multiple studies, that child labour is detrimental towards a child’s health and education. Con, however, rightly points out that child labour, on a short term basis, could be the difference between survival and death. Thus, I propose an alternative for families to earn money.

A far superior method for families to earn money can be achieved through the establishment and development of trade unions. [4] There are several advantages to this. Firstly, this would ensure that adults earn a higher sum of money. This would be an excellent outcome for many adults, who are forced to work for an unacceptable amount of time, work in horrendous conditions, and earn little money for their work. Secondly, the establishment and development of trade unions would ensure improvement in working conditions for adults, meaning that they are not subjected to as much risk as before. Thirdly, trade unions can protect children’s rights, by refusing their entry to labour markets at such a young age, and promote the importance of an education.

However, what is the effect of child labour on a macro (national) level? Con points out that banning child labour, especially the worst forms, can have a harmful effect on the economy as a whole. He points to Dessy & Pallage (2005) to support this claim. [5] He also argues that programmes alleviating poverty, such as the ‘Food for Education’ programme is a more suitable alternative. These arguments cannot be ignored.

I do believe that programmes such as the ‘Food for Education’ programme can be beneficial, but I do not believe that my stance and programmes like that are mutually exclusive. I also note that for Con’s position to be consistent with his support for the ‘Food and Education’ programme, he must believe that child labour and education are not mutually exclusive. This sometimes is true, but not always. Child labour, in many circumstances, requires a child to move away from his original environment, where he has access to schools, to an isolated location, where he has little access to his home, or education. Con also seems to misunderstand my position. I, of course, do not support child labour. However, this does not mean that I do not support child work. There is a difference between the two. According to World Vision, ‘Not all children who work are engaged in child labour. There can be benefits for children who work, provided their schooling is not compromised and their mental and physical development is not affected. If children are above the minimum age to work, are employed for a limited number of hours in safe conditions, are paid fairly and the work does not impact on their mental, physical or social development, working may be beneficial to both themselves and their families.’ [6] I also apologise for not making this clear in my First Round.

Con also cites Dessy & Pallage’s work to support his argument. However, Dessy & Pallage’s work completely ignores hypothetical alternatives to child labour, as proposed by a number of scholars, such as McLean (1996)’s suggestion for the establishment of vocational training centres, Guha-Khasnobis (1999)’s suggestion for compulsory education, and the establishment and development of trade unions. [7]

On a long term basis however, there is good evidence that suggests that child labour is detrimental towards the economy. For instance, child labour could slow down both long-term growth and technological progress. This is evident, as companies and manufacturers would prefer to hire unskilled children due to a cheap price, as opposed to investing and upgrading their technology and production processes. In the long run, this can have negative effects, through a slowing down in technology and productivity. [8]

I previously (somewhat) discussed the negative impact child labour would have through affecting the child’s health and education. I thought that now may be a good time to bring this issue back up again and refute some of Con’s rebuttals.

On a long term basis, child labour has a negative impact on a country’s economy for two reasons.

Firstly, it has a negative impact upon health. I have already demonstrated the correlation and causation between child labour and health, through citing two studies. Con has not provided an adequate response. Instead, he has asked a set of rhetorical questions, to which I will respond. Firstly, nearly all environments have detrimental effects towards children’s health. This is simply because a child has not developed to a sufficient standard. In some cases this may lead to effects such as lower heat tolerance, and greater need for food and rest. [9]

Also, Con ignores that fact that death and diseases are significantly more likely to occur in places where child labour occurs. I also have demonstrated that there was a causal link between the two.

Now, lets move on to the education aspect. I would agree with Con regarding his first point. However, ironically, Con provides a solution to this, when he mentions the ‘Food for Education’ programme. Also, I was not arguing that the children would do ‘well.’ I was merely arguing that education could lead children to far more skilled jobs, which in turn would benefit the economy. Con also argues that education is a long-term solution. I agree, but do not believe that this is of any significance. One would not expect investing in renewable energy to immediately cut carbon dioxide emissions. But it does in the future. Furthermore, the positives that come with investing in education outweigh the monetary cost.

Therefore, citizens with poor health and education is detrimental, long-term, to a country’s economy because this transforms into an unproductive workforce and society relies on unskilled workers to make the bulk of economic industries.

I eagerly await Con’s response.


[2], [8]


[4], [7]




Debate Round No. 3


Thank you for your intelligent arguments.

I believe that through three rounds of debate, both sides have covered the majority of issues surrounding the topic at hand.
Therefore, I will use this round mainly to try to undermine some of the pro's arguments.

Proposition mentioned a 'superior' method of trading union. Pro draws certain advantages of trade union for adults. However, pro fails to recognize the fact that the majority of children involved in labour are orphans. Therefore, 'families,' often consisting only of young children, would not benefit much, if at all, from the establishment of trade unions. In addition, unions attempting to change work place conditions will inevitably cause stoppage of work (strike) which means no income for these impoverished families. Also, protecting the rights of children by refusing to recognize the right to work the children has is contradictory.

Opposition would like to question if there are suitable evidence of many occurrences that child labour required children to move in an isolated work place.

I thank the side proposition for bring up the differences between child labour and child work. However, I do not quite understand the differences between the two. What is the 'minimum age' to work? What pay is considered 'fair' for children and relative to whose pay? The adults? Also, are there such work for children that are mentally, socially, physically beneficial to children in the developing countries? The definition of "child work" seems like jobs that are practically impossible to find as a child in the developing country.

The pro suggests education as the solution for child labour. Although I agree that education is beneficial in the long run, it may worsen the present condition greatly. Contrary to what pro has stated, the fact that education is a long-term solution is of great significance. When people are starving and suffering as much as they are in developing countries, the advantages for future are the least of their concerns. What matters to them is the present. Future can only exist if present does and for many of the children and their families in the developing countries, there will be no future if one were to focus on the long-term solutions.

I thank the proposition for accepting my debate and providing arguments that resulted in this interesting debate.

By the way, how do you italicize phrases? This will be useful in my future debates.


I once again thank Con for instigating the debate and making it an enjoyable one. I italicized my phrases on Microsoft Word, and then copied and pasted.

In the final round, I would like to point out some discrepancies in my opponent’s rebuttals.
My opponent does not think that the establishment and development of trade unions is
a viable solution.

First, he claims ‘that the majority of child involved in labour are orphans.’ This is blatantly untrue. Kathryn Whetten’s research found that 17.8% of orphaned children engage in work that meets the UNICEF definition for child labour. [1] Considering that there are about 150 million orphans living in developing countries, we can conclude that around 26.7 million orphans work in child labour. [2] However, this is a measly 16% compared to the amount of child labourers world-wide (168 million).This is less than 3 times than the amount needed to demonstrate a majority!
Con also claims that strikes are needed in order to improve the workplace conditions, meaning that the families get no money. But, this is almost irrelevant, as the human body can function to a reasonable level for 3 days without food. [3] Furthermore, the loss of income for a short time would be negligible compared to its gains.
Con then claims that trade unions, by not allowing children to work, is a violation of rights. But this is simply untrue. It is protecting children from being exploited by transnational companies, and from having to work in undesirable conditions, such as artisanal mines and prostitution. [4] Article 23 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: ‘’Everyone has the right to work, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.’’ [5] But are the conditions that child labourers work in ‘favourable’? Are the conditions in sweatshops favourable? Are the conditions children have to face in artisanal mines, child prostitution and armed conflict favourable? Of course not!

Con questions whether there is suitable evidence for children to move to an isolated workplace. Of course there is! I provided several examples of this in my second round in artisanal mining and child combat. Herath and Sharma also write in their book ‘Child Labour in South Asia that: “A significant number children work as bonded labour, away from home, which is like slavery. Many children, particularly girls are kidnapped or enticed and sold for sexual purposes.” [6]

Con asks me for clarifications over the definition of ‘child work.’ The minimum age to work, according to the International Labour Organization is 14 years old.’ [7] A fair pay should reflect the work a child has to perform. This concept is called ‘equal pay for equal work.’

Con also claims that in developing countries, there are no instances of ‘child work’ in developing countries. This is untrue. The International Labour Organization writes: “Participation in some agricultural activities is not always child labour. Age- appropriate tasks that are of lower risk and do not interfere with a child’s schooling and leisure time can be a normal part of growing up in a rural environment. Especially in the context of family farming, small-scale fisheries and livestock husbandry, some participation of children in non-hazardous activities can be positive as it contributes to the inter-generational transfer of technical and social skills and children’s food security. Improved self-confidence, self-esteem and work skills are attributes often detected in young people engaged in some aspects of farm work. “[8]

Con also claims that ‘education may worsen the present condition greatly.’ This would be true, if no actions were taken to improve the family’s conditions in the short run. It is ironic that Con says this and provides a mechanism for improving the present condition that is achieved through education (The Food for Education Programme). I also have suggested the establishment and development of trade unions as a mechanism to improve a family’s current conditions. Con has not provided a satisfactory response to this.

I also note that Con has provided virtually no response to two arguments that I have put forward.

The first is that child labour is heavily detrimental towards the child’s health. I cited multiple studies to demonstrate that this is true. Con has barely provided a response to this argument. Secondly, allowing child labour impedes on technological progress and long term growth. From what I gather, Con seems to concede both arguments. I believe that alone, provides a strong case for the banning of child labour in developing countries.

In conclusion, I have provided multiple arguments why legalizing child labour in developing countries would be on balance, detrimental as a whole. Con, on the other hand, has not provided one argument that has been satisfactory. He also has provided no response to some of my arguments.

Vote Pro.









Debate Round No. 4
No comments have been posted on this debate.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by TheAmazingLiberal 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: His agument's had verifiable,demonstrable evidence.
Vote Placed by Romanii 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: This was a exceptionally high quality debate, especially considering that both users are rather new to the site! Conduct and S&G were excellent on both sides, so that is tied. I found Pro slightly more convincing, not because Con's arguments weren't valid, but because Con didn't amply respond to Pro's. Sources also go to Pro because he cited them from a great variety of places. Good job to both debaters! :D