Does Globalization Increase Child Labor? Evidence from Vietnam

Eric Edmonds, Nina Pavcnik

NBER Working Paper No. 8760
Issued in January 2002
NBER Program(s):International Trade and Investment, Labor Studies

This paper considers the impact of liberalized trade policy on child labor in a developing country. While trade liberalization entails an increase in the relative price of the exported product, trade theory provides ambiguous predictions on how this price change affects the incidence of child labor. In this paper, we exploit regional and intertemporal variation in the real price of rice to examine the relationship between price movements of a primary export and the economic activities of children. Using a panel of Vietnamese households, we find that reductions in child labor are increasing with rice prices. Declines in child labor are largest for girls of secondary school age, and we find a corresponding increase in school attendance for this group. Overall, rice price increases can account for almost half of the decline in child labor that occurs in Vietnam in the 1990s. Greater market integration, at least in this case, appears to be associated with less child labor. Our results suggest that the use of trade sanctions on exports from developing countries to eradicate child labor is unlikely to yield the desired outcome.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8760

Published: Edmonds, Eric V. and Nina Pavcnik. "International Trade And Child Labor: Cross-Country Evidence," Journal of International Economics, 2006, v68(1,Jan), 115-140.

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