Ban on Child Street Sellers: Good or Bad?
BBC radio this AM had a story about the EJS government announcing it will now start to enforce a ban on underage street sellers. In Monrovia, many busy corners are clogged with kids selling gum, candy, socks, pillows, brooms, whatever, and it's really depressing to see. But my first thought was, "Uh-oh. What will be the social costs of this decision?"
Let's start from the assumption that we all believe that children should be in school, and should not out on the street, working or otherwise. Then let's try to get into the heads of the policymakers, consider the options before them. My goal here is pure harm reduction.
Givens: People are extremely poor, school is supposed to be free but there are always unaffordable hidden fees for uniforms and such, unemployment is 80% or more, and for a variety of reasons children are the main breadwinners in many families.
Now, should the government choose to enforce a ban on child street selling?
- Might reduce rural-to-urban migration of youth, an important national goal.
- Might get more kids into school by forcing the hand of parents who favor income over education.
- Gets kids off the street, or at least some of them.
- Shows that the government is serious about education.
- Hurts kids who can't afford school; might increase child hunger and mortality.
- Government has no capacity to enforce the rule that school is supposed to be free.
- Might increase the crime rate. [I have no doubt, here.]
- Cops will go nuts and start beating and stealing from kids left and right.
Oh, and apparently EJS is also backing that ridiculous ban on wigs at school.