Child Labor Is Going Out of Style

A boy shovels sand at the Sadat Ltd. Brick factory, where some children work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. dailyin Kabul, Afghanistan.

Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Some excellent news today from the International Labor Organization’s quadrennial report on child labor—the employment-to-population ratio for kids is down strongly around the world, and the share of kids engaged in hazardous work is falling at a nice rate as well.

It’s a reminder that despite a bad four years for the U.S. economy and a terrible four years for the European economy, we are living through what are probably the best of times on a global basis. Living standards are improving in most developing countries, and you see that both in income statistics and also in broader social indicators like this one:

Even better a decline in child labor should lay the groundwork for more good things in years to come. Child labor keeps kids out of school—its decline ought to mean a better-educated population and more economic growth in years to come. It will probably come as no surprise that child labor conditions are worst in the sub-Saharan Africa region, where 21.4 percent of kids are in child labor, but due to the Asia/Pacific region’s much larger population, that’s still the place where the largest raw quantity of child laborers is found.