Children’s Rights and Child Labour

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An examination into the origins of rights’ discourse and contemporary debates around child labour in developing countries, illustrates some of the problems with the discursive uses that children’s rights is put to, and its weakness as a means of addressing issues of social justice. Addressing the discourse around child labour, and how this is related to wider conceptions of the individual in post-European Enlightenment thought, enables some enquiry into the nature of these problems. Arce (2015) reveals the scale of child labour as a social issue, and that it occurs predominantly in developing countries, with almost a fifth of the global total of child labourers residing in Africa. Whilst it has a global impact that transcends national borders, the framing of the discourse around it occurs within parameters set by European actors. In this paper we argue that, if children’s rights campaigns wish to do more than reinforce existing global systems of domination and subordination, there needs to be a focus on children’s place in a nexus of social relations that themselves need radical rethinking. Such a project, we argue, could more usefully provide a starting place for conceptions of social justice that pay adequate attention to the needs of childhood.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)33-46
Number of pages13
JournalPrism: Casting New Light on Learning Theory and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date3 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2023


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