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The Evolution of Child Labor in Portugal, 1850–2001

Abstract

Historical accounts of the evolution of child labor are limited to the United States and to the core European economies. The experience of countries outside the prosperous European core has rarely been investigated. This paper draws on data from censii, labor force, and household surveys and qualitative information such as the testimonies of various stakeholders and news articles to provide an analysis of the evolution of child labor in Portugal. The Portuguese experience is set against the backdrop of the country's economic structure and economic growth, demographic changes, educational expansion and schooling, and labor legislation. Our assessment suggests that the long-run evolution of child labor in Portugal was determined mainly by the needs of the economic structure of the country and it was the progressive adoption of skill-biased technologies that pushed children away from work. While the passage of compulsory schooling and minimum working-age laws may have provided additional impetus, they were not the main drivers as changes in these laws tended to follow declines in child labor.

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Social Science History
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