London, Dec 18 A group of international academics has condemned the UN convention banning child labour as "harmful", saying the policy ignores benefits and reflects Western prejudice.
In a letter to The Observer newspaper, they argued that allowing young children to work could have positive effects which were not being taken into account, the Guardian reported on Sunday.
The researchers, who work in the fields of child development or human rights, said the UN committee has ignored available evidence in favour of "outdated and ill-informed Western prejudices".
They said the UN policies could have a negative impact on the ground.
One of the signatories, Dorte Thorsen of the school of global studies at the University of Sussex, said: "Banning children from work doesn't bring them back into school.
"In fact, it might do the opposite if they were working to pay their school fees," the Guardian quoted him as saying.
He pointed at India and Africa nations and said: "We are seeing collectivization movements of child workers, a unionization where they are trying to participate in politics, be heard, as opposed to this being a story of victimization and oppression."
Richard Carothers, a Toronto-based child development expert at the International Child Protection Network, called the UN policy "hard-headed attitude of the big bureaucratic international agencies".
"Children need to be protected from nasty situations, and there is a debate about whether the percentage of working children in nasty situations is a small percentage or a very small percentage," Carothers said.
Thorsen also criticized Britain's Department for International Development Minister Priti Patel for pressuring British companies to scrutinize their supply chains for evidence of child labour.
The experts also pointed at children, who were forced into hazardous, dangerous or illegal work because more regulated employment became closed to them.
Around 193 countries have committed to ending child labour by 2025 under the UN's sustainable development goals.
The academics want the existing minimum age (15 in some countries, 18 in others), to be abandoned, arguing that "age-appropriate" work could be beneficial for children in both the developing and the developed worlds.