"What Becker Calls Bribery, We Call A Scholarship"
The subject of Gary Becker's "`Bribe' Third World parents to keep their kids in school" (Economic Viewpoint, Nov. 22) is delicate and complex. It concerns all nations, rich and poor, since in today's globalized economy, what happens in one country will directly or indirectly affect others.
Here in Brazil, what Becker calls bribery, we call a scholarship. It has been happening in Brazil for the past four or five years. It started in Brasilia, when then-Governor Cristovam Buarque put the scheme into practice. Today, it is used in many states, and even the federal government has its own program. It is widely discussed and approved by all sectors of society and almost everyone in the political spectrum. So this is not news to Brazil.
It's important that we read in your magazine not only about the problems but also the solutions. I hope to read more articles with information about how some people solved their problems.
At its Mexican facility, my company had a problem similar to the one Becker discusses, but it involved adult absenteeism, not child labor. We found that the head of the household (usually the husband) would fail to come to work for some time just after receiving his paycheck. Offering higher wages to encourage better attendance was tried but failed: The worker could put in fewer hours and still take home the same pay.
We then tried offering the worker's wife a food coupon for free groceries each month if the husband worked a minimum number of days. Attendance jumped dramatically. This simple approach solved the problem. Perhaps the world's less fortunate children will also be able to enjoy such an easy solution to their problems.