An abolitionist approach to children's work bans all work; a regulatory approach bans harmful work and regulates other work. I argue for a regulatory approach, using the ‘least restrictive’ alternative test applied in law. I contend, however, that definitions of harmful work must be appropriate to local contexts and informed by working children's views. I support this with a case study of a village in Ethiopia where the current abolitionist approach is overly restrictive. However, a regulatory approach based on international definitions of harmful work would probably not protect children in the case study village against some harmful work. Children and parents in the village are able to define harmful work more precisely than international definitions, suggesting that locally specific definitions developed with working children should form the basis of regulatory legislation.
Journal of International Development (2010) 22 (8) 1102-1114 [DOI: 10.1002/jid.1749]