(Vinod Anand)


Economic and social prescriptions are linked both with micro and macro levels. The micro level prescriptions include serious consideration of ecological, feminist, and social concerns. They are linked not only with markets and efficiency, but also with the question of human well-being and how economic and social activities can contribute to, or detract from, well-being. They address such critical concerns as ecological sustainability, distributional equality, the quality of employment, and the adequacy of living standards.


Macro level prescriptions include critical issues such as macroeconomic stabilization, distributional equity, and quality of employment, environmental considerations, and the adequacy of living standards. They focus on these crucial aspects of human well-being. They also include serious investigation of the environmental impacts of economic growth and the role of unpaid work in economic life.



These prescriptions are normally symmetrically paradoxical, of course with few exceptions. There are two statements in this context: (1) Sometimes such prescriptions are desirable from economic perspective, but they are not socially desirable. (2) There are a few prescriptions that are socially desirable, but they are not so economically.


The first statement can best be exemplified with the issue of child labour, and the second statement with the overall well-being (welfare) of the people.


Let us briefly look at the issues of child labour:

hild labour  is a human right issue and refers to the employment of children. This practice is considered exploitative by many and is illegal in many countries. Child labour was utilized to varying extents through most of history, but in later times it became a serious matter of  public dispute with changes in working conditions during industrialization, and with the emergence of the concepts of  workers’ and children rights. Hence it is not socially desirable, and hence it is legally resticted in most of the countries.Hence, it is socially not desirable, and, therefore, illegal.

But looking  at this issue from the economic perspective,  it  becomes a necessity of the poorer strata of the society, especially in developing and least developed countries,where such families have many children with the sole  intenstion of bringing in more income to survive.It is common especially in domestic help, factory work, mining,  quarrying, agriculture, parents' business, and many other odd jobs.. Some children work as guides for tourists, sometimes combined with bringing in business for shops and restaurants (where they may also work as waiters). Other children are forced to do tedious and repetitive jobs such as: assembling boxes, polishing shoes, stocking a store's products, or cleaning. However, most child labour occurs in the informal sector,   for selling many things on the streets, at work in agriculture. They are forced to undertake all kinds of jobs in all types of weather; and they normally receive minimal pay. The jobs where children are forced to work are hazardous in themselves and affect child labourers immediately. They affect the overall health, coordination, strength, vision and hearing of children. One study indicates that hard physical labour over a period of years stunts a child's physical stature by up to 30 percent of their biological potential. Working in mines, quarries, construction sites, and carrying heavy loads are some of the activities that put children directly at risk physically. Jobs in the glass and brassware industry in India, where children are exposed to high temperatures while rotating the wheel furnace and use heavy and sharp tools, are clearly physically hazardous to them. Beyond that, there are also emotional, social, and moral hazards.

According to a recent estimate of the UNICEF there are an estimated 158 million children aged 5 to 14 in child labour worldwide, excluding child domestic labour.

In India, it is a serious and extensive problem, with many children under the age of fourteen working in carpet making factories, glass blowing units and making fireworks with bare little hands. According to the statistics given by Indian government there are at least 44 million child labourers in the age group of 5-14. More than eighty percent of child labourers in India are employed in the agricultural and non-formal sectors and many are bonded labourers. Most of them are either illiterate or dropped out of school after two or three years.

There is no dearth of such examples in economics.

Let us now briefly look at the socially desirable issue of the overall well-being (welfare) of the people and the failure of economic prescriptions:

This is best exemplified by looking at the clash between a socially desirable prescription of welfare economics (in terms of cost-benefit analysis of the allocation of resources, economic activity, and distribution of the resulting output on a society’s welfare) and the failure of an economically feasible ‘trickle-down effect’ to percolate the benefits of economic growth, especially among the poorer sections of the society. In fact, in real practice there is always a clash between the objective of enhancing the well-being of the people and the effects of economic activity in that direction. In a democratic set-up, the reason for this anomaly lies with the ‘State’(government, bureaucrats, and supporting voters) in terms of its role in managing the economy. The ‘State’ gets unnecessarily involved in nefarious activities like rent-seeking and directly unproductive profit- seeking activities at accumulate enormous un-earned money especially for their own vested interests.  This becomes a highly non-friendly barrier towards the processing of the ‘trickle- down effect’ and as a consequence, the well-being of the economy is not at all attained.

A few other examples in this context relate to many socially desirable regulations relating to public responsibility, traffic regulations, pollution free environment, and social interactions. But these are not fully followed, especially in developing and least developed countries essentially because of many economic and other reasons such as explosive population and related problems, low quality education, extreme poverty levels, income inequalities, and other equity issues, and slow and ineffective legal system.

The lesson that we learn from this brief write–up is that the concerned authorities must focus, of course through effective and lawful governance, their  attention on the optimal synchronization and co-ordination of the socially desirable objectives and the given economic and social prescriptions  to achieve the stabilize all the issues of economic and social development.









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