Critical Approaches to Children’s Work and the Concept of Child Labor

Michael Bourdillon

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Critical Approaches to Children’s Work and the Concept of Child Labor

Show Summary Details


In much of human history, and in the majority of the world today, children participate in the work activities of the communities in which they are growing, and thereby learn to become productive members of the societies in which they live. Relatively recently, in the developed world, the principal work of children has switched from productive work to schoolwork, a change that has created conceptual problems for understanding the work of children in other situations. An attempt to divide children’s work into harmful “labor” and benign “work” fails to account for the vast majority of children’s work, which combines potentially positive and negative elements. References to harmful work and exploitative conditions can be found in the Oxford Bibliographies article on Child Labor. More positive accounts of children’s work in different cultural contexts appear in the article on Children’s Work and Apprenticeship, which focuses on unpaid work in the family context and work associated with learning. Neither article defines its topic in relation to the other. This indeterminate division leaves gaps, omitting some literature on children’s work that does not easily fall into either category, such as the benefits that children can derive from employment and how to assess costs and benefits in children’s work. This article, therefore, has two roles: it points to publications that provide a more comprehensive view of children’s work and it fills some of the gaps left by the other two articles.

Article.  14461 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.