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Re‐assessing minimum‐age standards for children's work

Michael F.C. Bourdillon (Department of Sociology, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe)
Ben White (Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands)
William E. Myers (Department of Human and Community Development, University of California, Davis, California, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 24 April 2009




The purpose of this paper is to call for re‐thinking of the universal minimum‐age approach to problems of child labour.


The authors point out that there has been no serious policy analysis on universal minimum‐age approaches, and question common assumptions concerning such policies by reviewing available knowledge on the impact of work on children.


Available research does not support a presumption that blanket minimum‐age laws are beneficial. In some cases, it is clear that they are injurious to children, underlining the need for systematic policy analysis.

Practical implications

The promotion of universalized minimum‐age policies should cease until their effect on children has been reliably assessed. In the meantime, more energy and investment should be devoted to alternative, proven ways of combating forms and conditions of work that are genuinely likely to cause harm, and to promoting access to education.


This paper contributes towards introducing more appropriate policy on children's work.



Bourdillon, M.F.C., White, B. and Myers, W.E. (2009), "Re‐assessing minimum‐age standards for children's work", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 29 No. 3/4, pp. 106-117.



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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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