Explaining the High Incidence of Child Labor in Sub-Saharan Africa

University of Bonn, Germany
African Development Review (Impact Factor: 0.7). 12/2002; 14(2). DOI: 10.1111/1467-8268.00054
Source: OAI


There has been a growing interest on the issue of child labour among the academic and professional circles in recent times. Estimates show that the number of under–aged working children in Africa could reach some 100 million in the next 10–15 years, posing serious challenges to African policy–makers. Little is known about the likely causes for the rise in child labour in Africa. The lack of data has seriously undermined the amount and quality of research on the topic particularly in sub–Saharan Africa. The intent of the present study is to examine the link between children’s labour force participation and some macroeconomic variables using aggregated data from sub–Saharan Africa. The results show that the high incidence of child labour in sub–Saharan Africa could be explained, among other things, in terms of the high incidence of poverty, the predominance of a poorly developed agricultural sector, high fertility rates leading to high population growth, and low education participation. Contrary to some recent arguments, which questioned the direct link between poverty and child labour, the results of this study show that poverty is indeed one of the most important reasons for the high incidence of child labour in Africa. This complex problem calls for comprehensive and multi–faceted interventions including the adoption of poverty reduction strategies, introduction of labour–saving technologies for the agricultural production, an aggressive provision of primary education, and the mobilization of the communities for creating awareness.
Ces dernières années, la problématique du travail des enfants a suscié un intérÁt croissant dans les cercles académiques et professionnels. Selon les estimations, le nombre d’enfants mineurs qui travaillent en l’Afrique pourrait atteindre quelque 100 millions au cours des dix è quinze prochaines années, ce qui pose un défi majeur pour les décideurs politiques africains. On sait peu de choses sur les causes probables de l’incidence croissante du travail des enfants en Afrique. Le manque de données a un effet négatif tant sur la quantité que sur la qualité des recherches sur le sujet, en particulier en Afrique subsaharienne. La présente étude a pour objet d’examiner les liens entre la participation des enfants au marché du travail et plusieurs variables macroéconomiques en se basant sur des données agrégées provenant d’Afrique subsaharienne. Les résultats indiquent que la forte incidence du travail des enfants en Afrique subsaharienne découle notamment de la forte incidence de la pauvreté, la prédominance d’un secteur agricole peu développé, les taux de fertilitéélevés entraÑnant une forte croissance démographique, et les faibles taux de scolarisation. Contrairement è ce que laissent entendre des arguments avancés récemment, qui mettent en cause le lien direct entre la pauvreté et le travail des enfants, les résultats de cette étude montrent que la pauvreté est en effet l’une des causes majeures de la forte incidence du travail des enfants en Afrique. Ce problème complexe appelle des interventions globales et multiples, axées notamment sur l’adoption de stratégies de réduction de la pauvreté, l’introduction de technologies génératrices d’économie de main d’uvre pour la production agricole, un programme agressif de scolarisation au niveau primaire, et la mobilisation des communautés pour la sensibilisation.

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    • "Admassie argues that " participation in school reduces; first of all, the available time the child has for work at home or in the labor market " (Admassie, 2002: 262). Many parents do not only see the costs of schooling and the loss of labour, but they also doubt the achieved qualifications of pupils. "
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    ABSTRACT: Gender has become a key determinant for access to formal education in Ghana. Ghana has a reputation for having an exemplary education policy on paper with free education for everyone; nevertheless the dropout rates are high. This is particularly true for girls who have higher dropout rates than boys. This paper suggests that we need to expand our understanding beyond an economic discourse and include a citizenship perspective to understand how girls' dropout rates from formal education are determined by girls' social and economic roles in the informal community. The paper suggests that we need to expand our understanding of gendered citizenship in developing countries to include informal aspects of societies such as informal communities and informal labour markets. These spheres are highly feminized. The division between a small male-dominated formal citizenship/formal labour market and a large female-dominated informal citizenship/informal labour market is however not limited to Ghana but is a wide-spread phenomenon in many developing countries.
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    • "The predominant argument in the ongoing debate is that child labour deprives children of their childhood and also negatively impacts on their welfare, their development and their dignity (Blanchet, 1996; Heady, 2003; ILO, 2002; Strakova and Vondra, 2008; Weiner, 1991). Consequently, many commentators have taken the view that the earlier child labour is eliminated, the better for society at large (Admassie, 2002; ILO, 2010, 2011; Ravallion and Wodon, 1999). "
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    ABSTRACT: This article is based on the accounts of a group of children who work at an artisanal gold mining site. Their work is potentially harmful; yet, it is also the means by which they attempt to access their rights to education and other opportunities. The article argues that child labour preventative efforts must recognize and address this complication. This is in order to develop interventions that unquestionably serve some working children’s best interests.
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    • "The incidence of child labor decreases as the income and resources of households increase (Admassie, 2002; Grootaert and Patrinos, 1999; Jensen and Nielsen, 1997; Patrinos and Psacharopoulos, 1997). Emerson and de Souza (2000) also observed that child labor perpetuates poverty across generations; parents who were child workers have a higher probability of sending their children to work. "
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    ABSTRACT: Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence of child labor in the world and estimates show that it continues to grow. This paper examines the causes and magnitude of child labor in Kenya. Unlike previous studies that examined child labor as only an economic activity, this paper includes household chores. Including household chores is important because majority of child labor takes place within the household. The paper finds that socioeconomic status and structure of the household have a strong effect on child labor. Also, a large proportion of working children attend school. If the consequence of working is to hinder educational attainment, then policymakers need to focus to this dimension of educational inequality: Between students who combine work and school and those who do not.
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