Bangladesh and Child Labor

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Tue Mar 21 10:13:49 PST 2000

This is a message for Rakesh or others who have followed this particular story more closely. Today's WALL STREET JOURNAL had a story on the fact that Bangladesh has achieved nearly the elimination of child labor under age 14 in those factories, even as US exports have risen 67% in value and 87% in volume since the program began. Exports involving US retailers in 1999 were valued at $1.9 billion, 70% of Bangladesh's total foreign currency.

The program to eliminate child labor was highlighted as due to pressure from the US law banning the import of goods made by children. THe result was a program of inspections by the International Labor Organization, which at the beginning of the program in 1996 found that 33% of factories had child labor. By last year, that figure had dropped to less than 10%. US money has supported schools for children previously involved in child labor.

Now, there is no doubt need for more economic support for education and other development initiatives, but these results seem to be exactly what progressives promoting social clauses in trade have said was the goal: more trade at better working conditions.

I am curious what is missing in the WALL STREET JOURNAL report to cloud this supposed success story?

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at

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