Silent Little Slaves

Firstly, it is essential to note that the scale and nature of profound implications that the global political economy has on the institute of childhood varies across the globe; among western Europe and countries in the South, chiefly. It is heavily reliant essentially on how and when children are impacted by neo-liberalism and incorporated in the global market. Capitalist expansion and neo-liberalism impacts several of the world’s poor children’s lives negatively. However we should not presume a uniformity of experience. Even amongst the poor young population of a specific country, the effects of capitalism will take place, mediate and be a consequence of numerous factors which include gender, ethnicity, class/caste and so on. Children are the losers in the global political economy, but the severity of their loss differs.

While there has been a great deal of focus in child poverty literature on the effect capitalism has on paid “child labour” in the manufacturing sector, the unpaid work of a child is ignored. For instance, privatisation and a shift towards market-based economy has resulted in an increase in paid work for women. Consequently, younger children especially girls globally have found themselves with responsibilities which widely range from housework and looking after younger siblings to tending crops in rural localities particularly. Such unpaid domestic burden of work endured by children is completely ignored by macro-economic models, whereby children are not considered as “productive members of a family”.

On the one hand, under most nations domestic laws and dictations of international conventions since 1990s, the types of work where children would be comparatively well-paid and safe in manufacturing is forbidden. On the other hand, the types of work that they least want to do are allowed, and often expected of them. Research portrays that children in various countries and diverse situations would opt for paid work over unpaid work, work outside the confines of their personal home over doing house chores, and work for non-family employers as compared to work for family employers. International political theory and neo-liberal practice/reforms fails to recognise that children appreciate work that results in respect, accumulation of skills, responsibility and an income, similar to adults.

The recommendations outlined in the International Labour Organisation nevertheless encourages children to participate in unpaid work in the form of household chores, or engage in a family business, whilst banning child work in the paid (regardless of how low) labour force. Children consequently are forced to engage in numerous unpaid jobs, often under conditions worse than work offered by multi-national corporations. This suggests that children are impacted by the global political economy explicitly, and implicitly. Nevertheless, it is challenging to determine between what circumstances do children lose out more.


Business as Usual? The Global Political Economy of Childhood Poverty. [Available:].

International Labour Organisation. [Available:–en/index.htm ].

Ammna Nasser (Dubai campus).



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