10 February 2004, The Financial Times

By Pradeep S Mehta

Sir, The international community should take note of the fact that the benefits of eliminating child labour outweigh its costs by a huge margin (“Economic case made for ending child labour”, February 4). All credit to the International Labour Organisation for bringing striking cost-benefit figures to the attention of the global community, while arguing for the elimination of child labour. However, it should be noted that any programme for eliminating child labour should be based on the principle of “saving” the child.

A study by CUTS on child labour in the handmade carpet-producing areas around Jaipur, India, showed that the decision to send children to work is driven by survival. In all cases we found that a child is sent to work only to earn the extra money needed to feed and clothe him. If the child did not work for wages, his survival would be at stake.

It simply confirms the fact that it is poverty that forces children to work. Development is the answer to ending child labour and the UN’s millennium development goals need to be accelerated by the international community to this end.