Battling Child Labor Wisely

A few years ago, a little shepherd boy tending his flock might easily have been a poster boy for those battling child labor.

More than two-thirds of the world's child workers are forced to do agricultural chores. Sweatshops are only a small portion of the problem.

But the fight against child labor has become more sophisticated. A new report by the International Labor Organization warns that of the 350 million children doing labor, 106 million are in acceptable work, such as the family farm.

Such fine-turning of this struggle will help it achieve its goals sooner. Campaigns in rich countries against child labor often are too broad in their rhetoric and unaware of local conditions. Boycotts do little when only 5 percent of child labor goes to exports.

More than half the world's nations have signed onto a 1999 convention to eradicate the worst forms of child labor. As that commitment takes hold, better research combined with stronger political will should someday see the exploitation of children go the way of slavery.

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