Children need a nurturing household and social environment in order to grow into economically active, productive adults with the ability to participate effectively in the social, cultural, and political activities in society. In a nurturing household, a child receives not only adequate and nutritious food for normal and healthy physical growth, but also appropriate health care, affection, and intellectual stimulation. A nurturing and caring society would ensure that each child receives education at least up to the primary level and has opportunities for healthy social interaction. In such societies few, if any, school-age children would be working and not in school.
However, hundreds of millions of children around the world are engaged in some work, many of them for long hours and in hazardous conditions. According to estimates for 2002 from the International Labour Organization (ILO) (2002b) there are about 246 million child laborers (aged 5-17) in the world, 180 million of whom are working in what are referred to as the worst forms of child labor, often involving hazardous conditions. Of these, 8 million children are working in the “unconditional worst forms” of child labor, which include armed conflict, forced and bonded labor, prostitution, pornography, drug trafficking, and other illicit activities.1
Some limited amount of work by children during off-school hours may be desirable for their healthy growth into adulthood. However, most of the children at work in the world are engaged in activities and for lengths of time in each day that are detrimental to their healthy physical and intellectual development, their education, and their productivity or earning capacity in adulthood. Child labor not only harms the child, but also perpetuates poverty and compromises economic growth and equitable development. In this chapter and the report, we follow the ILO usage and use the term “child labor” to mean work that is hazardous to the emotional and physical development of children below a specified minimum age, as distinguished from “child work,” which is not automatically considered problematic.
This chapter offers a framework for assessing the progress toward the elimination of child labor, identifying the problems encountered, and suggesting effective means for accelerating progress. A realistic assessment of the cost, in terms of both lost family income and the private and social cost of providing education to the children who are removed from the labor market, and an acceptable scheme for raising the resources from domestic and external sources for meeting the costs, are important parts of an effective plan to eliminate child labor.
Many conceptual and practical problems arise in monitoring the extent of child labor and the progress toward eliminating it. The next section discusses background and contextual factors to set the stage for the rest of the chapter. The section covers definitional issues as well as data quality and availability problems. The next three sections follow the structure of the previous chapters on core labor standards: assessing compliance; the available data sources from the perspectives of coverage, quality, reliability, and possible biases; and our conclusions and recommendations.
UNDERSTANDING CHILD LABOR
Understanding the reasons for child labor is essential for assessing and monitoring progress toward reaching the goal of eliminating child labor and for developing appropriate indicators for this purpose. Both supply and demand for child workers are important to developing such an understanding. On the supply side, the most common reason for parents to put their children to work is extreme poverty. Very poor parents cannot afford to forgo the income that a child worker brings to the family, let alone meet the out-of-pocket costs of sending the child to school, even though they
realize that depriving the child of an education will most likely condemn her or him to a life in poverty as an adult. In this sense, as the ILO has noted, child labor is both a cause and a consequence of poverty, contributing to a perpetuation of household poverty across generations.
A large proportion of child labor occurs in poor rural areas: nearly 70 percent of the economically active children in developing countries in 2002 worked in rural areas, mostly on family subsistence farms. In many developing countries, poverty is largely, though not wholly, a rural phenomenon, and most of the rural poor are marginal farmers and agricultural laborers. In these areas, schooling may be inaccessible and of poor quality, as well as costly.
Another reason for child labor is that when faced with a loss of income from temporary shocks, such as a failed harvest or an illness that keeps the breadwinning parent from work, poor parents take their children out of school and put them to work to compensate in part for the lost income. Even though parents understand the long-term deleterious consequences of interrupted schooling, they do not have savings or access to credit in order to smooth over temporary shocks to household income. Opportunities to borrow, other than from friends and relatives, are limited in developing countries because they do not have functioning financial systems, either microcredit institutions or more traditional banks. Friends and relatives may not be in a position to lend because they themselves may be facing adverse shocks (for example, harvest failures) at the same time.
Some children are forced into working because they have no living parents or other close relatives who can provide for them. HIV/AIDS and armed conflict in certain regions have been a major cause of increased orphanhood in recent years. Others work because their home environment was so hostile that they ran away from home to work. Whatever the reason for children’s working the conditions in which they work are often injurious to their health and growth.
Turning to demand for child workers, most often it is cheaper to use child workers than adults for the same work. Households find it cheaper to use children than to hire adult wage laborers as household help and in their farms and enterprises. Nonhousehold-based enterprises also hire children for the same reason in certain sectors. Apart from being deprived of education, child workers are exploited by employers, who take advantage of the poverty and hence the weak bargaining position of parents. Often, children are bonded to work with employers from whom their parents have borrowed. Since both child workers and their parents are often illiterate, em-
ployers are able to manipulate the amount they deduct from wages of children toward debt service and thus keep children in bonded labor for a long time (Human Rights Watch, 2003). Also, the occupations in which children are valued as workers because of their dexterity (e.g., carpet making) often involve unhealthy working conditions and long working hours. Lastly, the fact that children as workers are in no position to organize collectively means that they are more vulnerable to being exploited by their employers in wages, benefits, and conditions of work.
Almost all countries have formally recognized that child labor is injurious to the healthy development of children to become productive adults and to future economic development. This recognition has led to domestic legislation that, in most cases, sets a minimum age for the employment of children and prohibits the employment of children in hazardous activities.
At the international level, many countries have signed and ratified the two key ILO conventions relating to child labor, Conventions No. 138 and No. 182, on establishing a minimum age for employment and on the elimination of worst forms of child labor.
The enactment of domestic laws and the ratification of international conventions are certainly indicative of laudable intentions, not just to eliminate child labor, but also to ensure that children who are not working get an effective education and other help to grow to be productive adults. However, the extent to which domestic laws are enforced and international conventions are observed depends on many factors, including the availability of resources and the level of priority for enforcement by the government. Therefore, it is important to understand the realities of enforcement capabilities and availability of resources to avoid a narrow legalistic approach to eliminating child labor. It is also crucial to provide developing country governments with both technical assistance and resources to make a successful transition away from child labor. In this context, historical experience from developed countries of their success in eradicating child labor and the role of laws in it is useful.
In his review of the history of labor standards, Engerman (2003) finds that the first laws were designed to protect children, followed soon afterwards by laws protecting adult women and only much later by laws protecting adult males. English labor standards were approved over the course of the nineteenth century in the context of the industrial revolution, urbanization, rising incomes, growing international trade, and increasing literacy rates. These laws were often extended to British colonies around the world and set the model for European and U.S. laws. It is important to
distinguish laws that regulate employment of children through minimum age and maximum hours of employment and so on from laws relating to schooling, health (e.g., immunization), and other aspects of child welfare: from the perspective of child labor core labor standards, the former have a direct bearing while the latter have an indirect bearing.
Although an early English law, approved in 1788, established a minimum age of eight for chimney sweeps, Engerman traced the origins of British child labor laws to an 1802 law applying only to pauper apprentices and to the Factory Act of 1819, which prohibited children under age nine from working in cotton mills. Over the following decades, limits on child labor were gradually extended to other industries, and the age of work was increased, while legal requirements for education were introduced. By the turn of the century, children under the age of 12 were prohibited from working in all factories and workshops. In the United States, first in the northeastern states, and later in the southern and western states, legal prohibitions were placed on child labor in the late nineteenth century. By 1913, most states prohibited children under age 14 from factory work, although a few southern states had established a minimum age of 12, and a handful of states (e.g., Wyoming) had no child labor laws in place. The Fair Labor Standards Act, the first national law restricting child labor, was not approved until 1938.
Engerman (2003, p. 60) found: “It seems clear that in the period after the introduction of labor standards, there have been reductions in hours worked in affected sectors, increases in wages, reductions in child labor along with substantial increases in education and child literacy…”. However, while history clearly shows a correlation between laws and enforcement restricting child labor and requiring compulsory schooling and actual declines in the number of children working, the causes of those declines has been long debated. That debate still continues. There are several factors besides laws, such as trends in poverty, returns to education (in economic terms), and employment opportunities that affect the trend in child labor. There is absolutely no reason to think that the relative importance of each factor in explaining the trend would be the same in every country or every time. Moreover, as econometricians have cautioned, estimating the relative contribution of each factor from the available data is difficult (see, e.g., Brown et al., 2003; Fishback, 1998). Some of the differences in empirical findings can be attributed to differences in econometric methodologies. This has to be kept in mind in judging them.
Some retrospective studies of child labor in England and the United
States indicate that child labor and compulsory schooling laws have had their intended effect, reducing the incidence of child labor. For example, Bolin-Hort (1989) found that legal restrictions played a substantial role in the removal of child workers from the cotton mills in Manchester, England, during the industrial revolution. Brown et al. (1992) found that U.S. laws restricting child labor and requiring school attendance played a role in reducing the proportion of children employed in fruit and vegetable canning in the early 1900s. Adriana Lleras-Muney (2001) estimates the effect of several laws on educational attainment for individuals who were 14 years old between 1915 and 1939. The results show that legally requiring a child to attend school for one more year, either by increasing the age required to obtain a work permit or by lowering the entrance age, increased educational attainment by about 5 percent. The effect was similar for white males and females, but there was no effect for blacks. Continuation school laws, which required working children to attend school on a part-time basis, were effective for white males only, and these laws increased the education only of those in the lower percentiles of the distribution of education. Nardinelli (1990) reinterprets the British industrial revolution and concludes that child labor laws were not the principal reason for the decline of child labor. A comprehensive comparison of several countries (Austria, England, Germany, Japan, the United States, and several developing countries) by Weiner (1991) led him to conclude that compulsory education is necessary for the elimination of child labor. Angrist and Krueger (1991) examined more recent census data from 1960 and 1970 and found that state laws requiring young people to stay in school until age 17 or 18 were effective. Acemoglu and Angrist (1999) used the same census data and methods to analyze state child labor laws and found that child labor laws effectively increased boys’ school attendance. Margo and Finegan (1996) applied the same methods retrospectively to census data from 1900 and found that compulsory schooling laws had a positive effect on schooling.
In contrast, however, many historical studies have found that child labor and compulsory school laws followed declines in child labor, rather than causing them. Landes and Solmon (1972) found that nineteenth-century compulsory school laws had little effect. Scholliers (1995) found that the proportion of children under 12 working in Belgian factories had declined substantially by the middle of the nineteenth century without any legal restrictions on child labor. Moehling (1999) conducted a detailed statistical analysis of work and schooling patterns among U.S. 13- and 14-year-olds in the early 1900s, when most states had established 14 as the
minimum age for factory work: she concluded that child labor legislation usually followed, rather than led, the large declines in levels of child labor between 1900 and 1910. In a summary of several studies, Fishback (1998) concluded that U.S. factory managers’ demand for child labor fell during that period because of changes in technology, massive immigration of unskilled adult labor, and rising real wages.
It is evident that the relative importance of laws and their enforcement and other factors related to the decline in child labor are hard to assess, and the findings of historical research are ambiguous. However, it is clear that it took several decades before child labor was effectively eradicated in developed countries. Although this does not mean that an equally long time would be needed in contemporary developing countries, since the world economy today is very different, the historical evidence provides a cautionary perspective.
Children perform different types of work under a variety of conditions and for a variety of reasons. Therefore, in assessing child labor, the types and conditions of work, the age of the children who perform the work, and the developmental level of the country must all be taken into account. Because not all child work is considered to be detrimental to the growth and well-being of children, it is particularly important to distinguish among the different terms that are used in the literature. This section provides an overview of the ILO standards as codified in the Minimum Age Convention (No. 138) and the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor (No. 182) and the proxy measure most often used to measure child labor, “economically active children.”
Minimum Age and Worst Forms of Child Labor
ILO Conventions No. 138 and No. 182 distinguish between unacceptable “child labor” that is to be abolished and “child work” that may contribute to a child’s healthy development. The Minimum Age Convention (No. 138) stipulates, “national legislation should fix a minimum age or ages at which children can enter into different types of work” (International Labour Organization, 2002b). Although the convention states that the general minimum age should not be less than the age for completing compulsory schooling and in any event should not be less than 15 years of age—
the ultimate aspiration being 16 years—it offers some flexibility for developing nations that are unable to meet this target by allowing them to set a minimum age of 14 until they are able to comply fully with the convention. Light work may be allowed for children 12 and older, and nonhazardous work is allowed for children 15 and older. Hazardous work and the worst forms of child labor are never allowed for children.
The ILO defines light work as work that is not likely to be harmful to children’s health or development and not likely to be detrimental to their attendance at school or vocational training. In determining whether work is likely to be harmful, the ILO takes into consideration the duration of work, the conditions under which the work is done, and the effects on school attendance, among other factors. However, the ILO does not provide any operational guidance for assessing these factors and determining whether any given form of work would qualify as light work. Hazardous work includes “work which by its very nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons” (International Labour Organization, 1973). It is left up to individual governments to determine which types of work fall under the rubric of light or hazardous.
The Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor (No. 182) was adopted unanimously in 1999 and has already been ratified by 132 countries. It provides further limits to the kinds of work children may do. It identifies the following kinds of labor that are to be categorically abolished:
all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor; including forced recruitment into the armed forces;
the use, procuring, or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography, or for pornographic performances;
the use, procuring, or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties; and
work, which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children.
The first three fall into the category of the “unconditional worst forms” of child labor that are absolutely prohibited. According to the ILO, about 8.4 million children aged 5-17 are engaged in this category of labor. The fourth type of work falls under the category of hazardous, as defined by national
legislation. Hazardous work may be carried out in legitimate sectors of the economy but is not acceptable work for children (International Labour Organization, 2002b).
With respect to certain elements in the definition of child labor, the ILO has deliberately built in a large degree of national discretion, both in defining different categories of work (e.g., light or hazardous work) and in setting minimum ages for employment of children (which may vary with the level of development and with the ages of compulsory schooling). Although it is understandable and appropriate to allow national discretion in setting standards, variations across nations in standards make cross-country comparisons quite difficult. And the variability of national laws can also yield a seemingly odd result in terms of measuring progress. Countries that set higher or more ambitious standards for themselves may appear to be making less progress than countries that set lower standards. For example, if in one country some activities are declared as hazardous to children, but not in another country, even if the same proportion of children are found to be working in these activities, the former country would seem to be making less progress in meeting its own standards than the latter.
Collecting reliable data for measuring progress toward meeting child labor standards presents another problem. The problem arises in part from the fact that conventional data collection instruments, such as labor force surveys, are poorly designed to reflect in their questionnaires or protocols the nuances in the ILO definition of child labor, such as the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable forms of work for children. It also arises in part from the fact that the sample frame for household surveys, by definition, does not include children who are not part of any households (e.g., street children). It is also extraordinarily difficult to elicit truthful answers from respondents about children engaged in illegal activities (e.g., drug trade, pornography, and prostitution).
Economic Activity as a Proxy for Child Labor
Although the ILO distinguishes between child labor (defined as harmful to children’s emotional and physical development) and child work, most readily available data on child labor actually measure another, simpler, but less satisfactory concept: whether or not a person (child or adult) is engaged in “economic activity.” The economically active population is commonly defined as persons who “furnish the supply of labor for the production of economic goods and services as defined by the U.N. Systems of National
Accounts and Balances during a specified time-reference period” (International Labour Organization, 2000). The definition includes paid and unpaid employment, unemployment, and activity for household consumption (for a full discussion of “economic activity,” see Ritualo, 2002).
Many countries have undertaken labor force surveys that define participation in the labor force as being engaged in “economic activity.” Such surveys do not adequately capture the participation in economic, but illegal, activity and work that is unpaid and undertaken in household enterprises and whose product is mainly for household consumption. Also, some activities, while certainly involving work, are not deemed “economic” and are therefore excluded from the survey. While many of these problems arise in canvassing information about adults as well as children, they are particularly severe in canvassing information about the work of children.
An economically active child may or may not be engaged in child labor by ILO definitions. For example, a 14-year-old child working in a family shop after school is considered economically active but is probably not engaged in child labor, because this work may be categorized as light work appropriate for children over 12, since it is not physically or emotionally harmful and does not interfere with the child’s education, or a child kept home from school to do unpaid heavy household work for long hours may be engaged in child labor but might not be considered economically active.
Another serious problem involves children who are neither classified as economically active nor as students enrolled in or attending schools. In India, for example, this category of “nowhere children” accounted for 45.2 percent of all children in the age group of 5-14 in India in 1991, while the economically active children accounted for only 5.4 percent of that age group (Government of India, 2002). In parts of Africa where “child fostering” is prevalent, it is often difficult to determine whether this is in fact disguised child labor. As such, economic activity as a proxy for child labor could understate the number of working children.
As in other chapters, the committee proposes indicators for assessing compliance in three categories: (A) legal framework, (B) government performance, and (C) overall outcomes. In addition, for this subject, we include a fourth category of associated factors that are important in evaluating the prevalence of child labor and its causes but do not directly measure it.
In suggesting the following indicators, we are aware that data on some of them may be unavailable for many countries. Even when available, they may be biased, subject to serious measurement errors, and noncomparable over time and across countries. Nonetheless, we list them to encourage the collection of more and more reliable and comparable data in the future, perhaps with assistance from the international community.
The indicators on legal framework start with whether the country has ratified the conventions on minimum age and worst forms of child labor. Nonratification does not necessarily mean that a country is not working toward the abolition of child labor. In fact, many nonratifying countries have domestic laws that conform to the conventions. Nor does ratification mean that a country has the resources, capability, or even the will to enforce the conventions. Nonetheless, ratification signals some political will for making progress toward the abolition of child labor, as ratification requires submission of country reports for review by the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards and opens a country for technical assistance.
The second level of analysis is to look at the laws of a country to determine whether they conform with the ILO’s standards regarding minimum age and worst forms of child labor. Since developing countries may have different minimum ages of schooling and admission to work as allowed by the minimum age convention, it is not necessary to find that countries’ laws are fixed at the goal of age 16 for minimum compulsory schooling. However, the age for compulsory schooling should not fall below the lowest allowable by Convention No. 138, which is 12 years. Also, the laws should comport with the convention’s requirement with regard to minimum age for admission into work. That is, children should not be allowed to work while they are still under the minimum compulsory schooling age.
With regard to the worst forms of child labor, the first three categories (slavery, prostitution and pornography, and other illegal activities, including drug trafficking) should be categorically outlawed. If these activities are not illegal, the country is not adhering to the convention. For the last category of worst forms of child labor, hazardous work, careful attention must be paid to the country’s definition of what is hazardous and at what ages this kind of work can be undertaken.
The two additional indicators that need some explanation are whether child labor is included in a country’s constitution or in bilateral or other
trade agreements, such as the Generalized System of Preferences, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or the Caribbean Basin Partnership Trade Act. The former is important to assess the legal obligation on governments regarding child labor, as well as their national aspirations. Although some countries establish universal primary education as an explicit goal in their constitutions, this goal is often difficult to achieve. And unless such a constitutional provision is legally binding, it is of limited practical relevance.
Bilateral treaties or trade agreements become national law either automatically in some countries or by the enactment of enabling legislation in others. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, has a side agreement committing the three signatories (the United States, Canada, and Mexico) to effectively enforce their domestic laws relating to core labor standards. The U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement also includes enforceable commitments on core labor standards. Because treaties and trade agreements create legally binding commitments if they are part of national law, they can be a relevant part of the legal framework with respect to core labor standards. Also, since the demand for child pornography and child prostitutes in wealthier countries contributes to their supply by poorer countries, it is useful to have an indicator on whether a country’s laws punish patrons of child pornography and prostitutes across national borders.
The committee proposes 11 indicators for assessing the legal framework related to child labor:
A-1. ratification of ILO Convention No. 138;
A-2. whether the country has ratified ILO Convention No. 182;
A-3. whether the country has ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two optional protocols;
A-4. whether national laws discourage the economic exploitation of children and whether the country is a party to a bilateral or multilateral trade agreement that contains a provision prohibiting child labor;
A-5. whether there is universal, compulsory education for children under 15;
A-6. whether laws establish minimum ages for employment;
A-7. whether legislation prohibits the sexual exploitation of children and establishes punishment for offenders;
A-8. whether legislation prohibits all forms of child slavery and slavery-like practices;
A-9. whether legislation discourages the use of children in illicit activities;
A-10. whether the minimum age for conscription or voluntary recruitment into the military is less than 18 years; and
A-11. whether laws prohibit hazardous work for children under the age of 18.
In this category we identify the legal, administrative, and social indicators of national mechanisms and efforts (and their efficacy) of enforcement. Clearly, indicators of the resources spent on enforcement of child labor laws and investigations of violations, legal cases against violators, and enforcement of legal decisions are important.
It is also important to look at government expenditures (current and capital) to eradicate child labor as a percentage of total government expenditures and of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Although developing countries may be severely handicapped by a lack of resources and should not be penalized for their poverty, it is important to look at expenditures on education and the elimination of child labor in comparison with the other areas (e.g., defense, health, industry) to determine whether there is political will to eliminate child labor.
Some countries have programs for remediation of child workers, including explicit assistance to ensure that child workers have access to affordable education, which is clearly important. International assistance received by countries in support of programs to end child labor is another factor that may indicate a government’s commitment to ending child labor. Indicators of social actions would include the number of nongovernmental organizations engaged in eradication of child labor and possibly their resources.
The committee proposes 11 indicators of government performance:
B-1. whether there is an administrative agency charged with promoting or enforcing the child labor standard;
B-2. whether the country has a labor inspectorate;
B-3. the breadth of labor inspections in the country (e.g., number of visits, frequency of visits, number of workers covered);
B-4. the level of resources devoted to the labor inspectorate (e.g., num-
ber of personnel, absolute or relative to workers; budget, also absolute or relative to other spending, or other resources);
B-5. whether the labor inspectorate is trained and focused on assessing compliance with child labor standards;
B-6. whether there is an administrative or judicial complaint mechanism;
B-7. the effectiveness of the complaint mechanism (e.g., number of cases heard, number of complaints brought, number of prosecutions, fines or arrests, length of time for complaint process resolution, or other factors);
B-8. whether there are government programs to combat child labor;
B-9. whether there are government-sponsored education campaigns focusing on the elimination of child labor;
B-10. whether the government has received international technical assistance related to child labor; and
B-11. whether the government supports nongovernmental activities designed to support child labor standards.
The most generally available outcome measure of whether progress has been made toward the abolition of child labor is the reduction in the incidence of child labor, as evidenced by a fall in the economic activity of children. Measures of child labor—rather than of economically active children—are more desirable, but less available. The committee proposes seven indicators of outcomes:
C-1. number and proportion of children (ages 5-17) economically active (disaggregated by age, gender, and urban or rural);
C-2. number and proportion of children (ages 5-17) in child labor if it can be distinguished from child work (disaggregated by age, gender, and urban or rural, including those working below minimum wage, excessive hours, and worst forms);
C-3. proportion of children (disaggregated by gender) engaged in household chores by ranges of hours;
C-4. percentage of children working in various employment sectors (agriculture, mining, construction, transport, manufacturing);
C-5. estimates of the number and percentage of children working in each of the worst forms of child labor (slavery, prostitution, pornography, armed conflict, illegal activities, and hazardous work);
C-6. time worked; and
C-7. an estimate of the number of children living outside their households (e.g., street children, fostered children) who are engaged in child labor.
Associated factors are indirect measures that provide a basis for understanding conditions that either contribute to or lead to the elimination of child labor and for assessing whether remediation has been effective. Indicators of factors associated with child labor include the obvious ones of poverty; fertility; inequality (mortality and morbidity rates); and adult literacy (particularly female literacy), which is meant to capture the awareness of parents of the consequences of child labor, particularly their understanding of accounts and deductions relating to bonded child labor. A list of related indicators would include: labor force participation rate, socioeconomic status of households with working children, poverty rate, adult employment rate, income per capita, income inequality, total fertility rate, life expectancy rate, infant mortality rate, child malnutrition rate, and adult literacy rate.
Because the cost and quality of available schooling influence parental decisions regarding sending children to work rather than to school, government expenditures relating to schooling, accessibility of schools, and school quality indicators (such as student-teacher ratios) are relevant factors, particularly in any attempt to reduce or eliminate child labor. These indicators would include: expenditures on public schools (as a percentage of GDP), net school enrollment (children enrolled in school as a percentage of children of mandatory school age), proportion of school children repeating grades, retention rates, student to teacher ratios, and cost of attending school.
Also included in this category is the access to microcredit. As noted above, access to credit is an important factor in insulating families from the temporary shocks to income that often result in children’s entering the workforce. Although access to credit can mean that children are not as readily put to work, it can in certain circumstances have the opposite effect: For families that receive credit to start a home-based enterprise, there is an increased demand for labor, which is sometimes met by the labor of children in the family. Therefore, access to microcredit should not be taken, on
its face, as a factor that indicates less demand for child labor (Brachman, 2002).
Other socioeconomic factors that affect child labor include: indicators of demand for child labor (such as sexual tourism and child pornography), HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, and existence of war or other civil or political turmoil.
SOURCES OF EVIDENCE
During the past 10 years, a vast amount of experience has been gained and information gathered using quantitative and qualitative data collection methodologies for better understanding of the complex phenomenon of child labor. Quantitative data collection methodologies concerning working children have taken the form of censuses, household surveys (i.e., national labor force surveys, ILO child labor surveys, and UNICEF and World Bank surveys), establishment and workplace surveys, and school-based surveys. Such surveys, when appropriately designed and canvassed, allow estimation of the scale, incidence, distribution, characteristics, and causes and consequences of child labor. Quantitative estimates from surveys can be used for planning, monitoring, and developing policies and programs aimed at the abolition of child labor.
Researchers have also made progress in learning about hidden and illegal forms of child labor through qualitative methods. Qualitative methodologies help to shed light on the activities of children that are difficult to measure using conventional household survey methodologies or in gathering information in a region where little prior information exists. In addition, qualitative methodologies help to provide a more thorough understanding of concepts and indicators of child labor that can be used to better refine survey methodologies and instruments (Grimsrud, 2001).
The complementary use of both quantitative and qualitative data collection methodologies can provide a more complete picture of the causes and consequences of child labor that will eventually improve decision making, program planning and monitoring, and the development of sound policies aimed at the elimination of child labor. This section provides an overview of the various sources of qualitative and quantitative data collected by governments, international agencies, and nongovernmental organizations (national and international).
General-Purpose Household Surveys and ILO Database2
In the early 1990s, the ILO through the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and the Bureau of Statistics designed and tested special approaches in order to find an appropriate survey methodology to probe into the work of children. Four approaches were tested and carried out in Ghana, India, Indonesia, and Senegal: (1) household surveys (with community level inquiry as a prerequisite, where relevant); (2) employer surveys (establishment/enterprise); (3) street children surveys; and (4) time-use surveys. The ILO concluded that the household-based sample survey, supplemented by surveys of employers and children living in the streets with no usual place of residence, was the most appropriate methodology for inquiring about the schooling and nonschooling activities of children (International Labour Organization, 1998).
It is not surprising that household surveys are the best means to collect information on the work of children. Because children normally live in households, households are best able to identify all their members and to describe their activities. However, household surveys have some limitations. First, children who do not live or work within a traditional household, such as homeless children, are not covered. Second, although foster children should, in principle, be included in a household survey, the respondent (often the head of the household) often may not include the foster children living in the household. Such failure to report is even more likely for children who are household servants but not members of the family. Third, survey respondents may be reluctant to report accurately on the work of children engaged in the worst forms of child labor, as many of these activities are illegal, and household heads are unlikely to admit that they and their children are involved in such activities. Finally, where child laborers are concentrated in a specific area or in specific sectors, if the survey design does not take this into consideration (such as through oversampling of households or enterprises in such sectors or regions), the estimate will tend to have sampling errors. More generally, the estimates from general-purpose household surveys not designed to collect data specifically on child labor are often subject to measurement errors.
In addition to possible measurement errors, all sample surveys discussed below, whether household based or enterprise based, are subject to
the usual nonsampling biases, such as nonresponse, erroneous response, interviewer errors, data entry and processing errors. These errors and biases can be reduced through interviewer training, pretesting, and data quality controls (see, e.g., Ashagrie, 2001).
There are two general-purpose household surveys that collect data on child labor: The Living Standards Measurement Study conducted by the World Bank and the national labor force surveys that are conducted by national governments.
Living Standards Measurement Study Surveys
The World Bank developed the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) in 1980 to generate national-level data on the welfare and living standards of households. The LSMS uses multitopic questionnaires to collect general information, such as household expenditures, income, composition, and economic activity. Their sample sizes are typically very small (1,500-5,000 households), which present difficulties in providing reliable, detailed disaggregated data on employment of household members by industry and occupation. Also, these surveys have only recently begun to pay special attention to child work. Their small sample size results in estimates of child labor with high sampling errors. Also, the early surveys did not capture such activities as household work and illegal child labor.
In general, the estimates of the economically active population of children from the LSMS surveys are lower than estimates from another ILO survey (discussed below). This is likely due to the fact that the main objective of the other survey is to capture the work activities of children so the sampling methodology and the questionnaires are designed around that objective.
In general, individual household members answer the questions regarding work activities and conditions and characteristics of work. However, an adult usually responds to the economic activity questions addressed to children under the age of 10 or 12, depending on the country. In these cases, every effort is made to address the questions regarding the economic activity of young children to the adult most knowledgeable about the child’s activities.
In terms of measuring child labor, the LSMS surveys generally collect information on occupation and industry, hours of work, and school attendance. A few of the more recent surveys include information on household chores and hours spent on household chores and injuries and illnesses
(though not necessarily work-related injuries or illnesses). However, it is often difficult to obtain the detailed information necessary to determine whether the work a child is doing constitutes hazardous child labor.
National Labor Force Surveys
We discuss above the strengths and weaknesses of labor force surveys as instruments for collecting data on child labor, the most serious weakness being that they are generally based on economic activity. However, to what extent the data from labor force surveys are biased in estimating child labor as defined by the ILO varies across countries and over time within each country. The most serious shortcoming is that some surveys do not collect data on persons under the age of 15 under the assumption that such children are not in the labor force. Even if children are covered, the fact that they often work on a part-time basis, in seasonal work, or as unpaid family workers creates inherent difficulties in estimating child labor from such surveys. In addition, the fact that there may be a large number of children who are categorized as neither at work nor at school in such surveys indicates that these surveys are not capturing crucial information. Given these problems and variations, the data from national labor force surveys on child labor tend not to be comparable across countries and over time.
Although labor force surveys and censuses have many limitations for measuring child labor, they can be a useful source of information when no other sources of data on working children exist. In addition, labor force surveys and censuses, depending on their quality, can be used to cross-check data from other sources, such as the Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour (SIMPOC) or LSMS programs. For example, labor force surveys tend to include fewer probing questions compared to child labor surveys. Therefore the extent to which more detailed questions affect estimates of children’s work participation rates can be evaluated.
ILO Database on the Economically Active Population
In 1996, the ILO released the fourth edition of the database on the economically active population for the years 1950 through 2010. This database contains estimates and projections of the economically active population for the 10-year intervals from 1950 to 1990 and for the years 1995, 2000, and 2010. Population data, numbers of economically active persons,
and activity rates are presented by 5-year age groups, for the total population and for males and females separately. Data are presented for 178 countries with populations of 200,000 or more and world and regional aggregates. The lack of annual data make this data source less useful for the purposes of this project.
The ILO did not directly collect these data. It only compiles and tabulates the estimates and projections of the economically active population that are derived from national labor force surveys and censuses. The population data are midyear population estimates and projections (medium variant) and are from the U.N. Population Division’s World Population Prospects 1950-2050:1996 Revision (United Nations, 1996) which is also based on national censuses and surveys. The data reflect adjustments and extrapolations where necessary to conform to a standard concept of the economically active population, comparable age categories, reference periods, and date of surveys or censuses.
Data on the economically active population are presented for children aged 10 to 14 for most countries. However, due to the paucity of data for all children in this age group, these data need to be used with caution. The lower age limit for which data on economic activity are collected in national surveys and censuses differs greatly by country, ranging from ages 10 to 15. In countries where economic activity data are collected for persons 12 and older, for example, the activity rates presented in the ILO database are not adjusted to account for the economically active children aged 10 and 11. Therefore, the activity rate for the 10-14 age group is the ratio of economically active children 12 to 14 to the population 10 to 14: for these countries, the ILO estimates of the economically active population aged 10 to 14 are likely to be underestimates.
Two studies in particular suggest that the estimates derived from the ILO data for the economically active child population could be underestimates. First, the estimates of the economically active population aged 10 to 14 based on the ILO database are lower by about 11.7 percentage points than the corresponding estimates of other sources. The difference decreases as the age range increases: for children ages 15 to 17, it was only 5.9 percentage points. For both age ranges, the difference is greater for girls than for boys (International Labour Organization, 2002a). A study that compared the economic activity rates of children 10 to 14 from the ILO database with information on school enrollment (Mehran, 2000) concluded that the economic activity estimates were too low by about 15 percentage points. Although those studies suggest that ILO estimates of child labor are
low given the problems of the ILO database, as well as of the surveys compared with it, one has to be cautious in taking any of the estimates as relatively more accurate than others.
Surveys with Child Labor as Their Primary Focus
With the problem of child labor gaining prominence on the global human rights and labor rights agenda, there has been a concerted effort to gather data through surveys that focus primarily on child labor. Two surveys currently collect these data; unfortunately, they have not been in existence long enough to provide the data needed to assess properly the full extent of and changes in child labor, nor do they cover sufficient countries at the present time to be of use in broad cross-country comparisons. However, they are promising starts and may over time provide the kind of data that are critical in monitoring and assessing countries’ attempts to reduce child labor and abolish the worst forms.
Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour
SIMPOC is administered by the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC). Since its inception in 1998, 20 countries have completed the SIMPOC survey and published reports, an additional 17 countries have completed field data collection and are conducting data analysis, and 11 countries are in various stages of survey development and data collection (as of May 2003). This survey is designed specifically to collect data on child labor and thus is likely to be the most reliable source of statistical data currently available for the countries covered. Because SIMPOC surveys are specifically designed to collect data on child labor, they are discussed at some length here.
SIMPOC surveys, which are designed to either stand alone or be attached as a module to labor force surveys, are usually carried out at the request of participating IPEC countries in collaboration with the national survey offices of the host country, labor ministries and ministries responsible for child welfare, nongovernmental organizations, academic and research institutions, and international organizations (UNICEF and World Bank).3 Because of this collaboration, SIMPOC relies on the infrastruc-
ture and capacity of the host country. Technical assistance aimed at building the capacity of countries to collect data is thus an important part of SIMPOC. Because SIMPOC is the only program to date that focuses solely on the collection of child labor data, it is important that the surveys be continued in countries over time and that more countries participate in IPEC and SIMPOC. It is probably costly to undertake SIMPOC surveys, although the committee has not been able to obtain precise cost estimates from the ILO. Currently, surveys have neither been conducted by enough countries nor over a sufficient period of time to confidently assess the status of child labor worldwide. Also, because the survey instruments have been evolving since their inception, year-to-year comparisons of their data may be problematic.
Key to the implementation strategy of SIMPOC is to support the existing national infrastructure for collecting child labor statistics, in particular, and socioeconomic statistics, in general. Through SIMPOC, the ILO hopes to ensure that child labor surveys are sustainable at the national level and considered an integral part of national statistical programs. Because they rely on, and support, existing national survey programs, each SIMPOC survey is different and tailored to the situation of each country. In all cases, the appropriate government agency focused on data collection—most often the national statistical office—carries out the child labor surveys with technical assistance and, in most cases, funding from SIMPOC.
The SIMPOC surveys include numerous questions on the characteristics of working children, such as the type of work, hours of work and time of day the work is carried out, conditions of work and characteristics of workplaces, the physical and mental safety of workplaces, schooling, and parent’s perceptions of child work, and household chores and hours spent on household chores. In addition, data are collected on the basic demographic, social, and economic characteristics that are often related to work among children.
Unlike most household surveys, SIMPOC interviews both children and the household head (or other most knowledgeable person). Questions regarding the demographic, social, and economic characteristics of each member of the household are asked of the designated head of the household or other appropriate person. Included are questions about the work activities and conditions of work of the children aged 5 to 17 years living in the household. Interviewers also ask the children themselves a special set of questions regarding the children’s work activities, conditions of work, and the characteristics of their work. In some SIMPOC surveys, questions are
addressed to the household head regarding children aged 5 to 17 not currently residing in the household. The questions are intended to capture children who are living away from the household. In addition, some surveys include inquiries about the household’s awareness of child recruitment for work.
The methodology required by SIMPOC is designed to ensure that a large enough sample of working children is captured in the survey. In general, SIMPOC surveys consist of relatively large sample sizes (10,000 households or more). The sampling design methodology used in SIMPOC surveys requires an up-to-date master frame of households with information on the total number of children ages 5 to 17. In some cases, level of income, region or provincial residency, and urban or rural residency are used for stratification and the selection of the required number of households. Unfortunately, in many poor countries, an up-to-date master frame with accurate income information is unlikely to be available. In some cases, households in the lower income levels or slum areas are oversampled because it is assumed that the incidence of child labor is greater among low-income households. In the majority of SIMPOC surveys, urban areas are oversampled in order to capture the diversity of children’s employment and allow for sample sizes large enough to describe the different types of occupations and industries, as well as the wage levels of working children. Segmentation by region, province, or other relevant geographic area ensures that reliable estimates can be computed at subnational levels. It also ensures that certain types of child labor will be captured within the national surveys if it is known a priori that there are a large proportion of working children in specific regions.
SIMPOC surveys, particularly the more recent surveys, typically include probing and detailed questions in addition to basic work questions, in order to better capture the work activity of children than in other surveys. This approach has led in general to higher child work-population ratios than found in other surveys (International Labour Organization, 2002a). In contrast to LSMS, SIMPOC also includes a measure of unpaid labor.
Many SIMPOC surveys include questions designed to measure the extent of child labor and hazardous child labor as defined by ILO conventions and national laws. All SIMPOC child labor surveys include questions regarding the type of work children are engaged in, such as industry and occupation. Information on hours of work, which is relevant in the measurement of light work and excessive work, is also included in the SIMPOC
surveys. In many newer surveys, a question on the time of day children carry out their work is also included. Many SIMPOC surveys also address the extent to which children participate in household chores and the hours they spend on these activities. Finally, the more recent SIMPOC surveys include questions on whether a child is exposed to a hazardous work environment (i.e., work at heights or underground, work with tools or machinery, work in excessive noise or dust, work in extreme temperatures, etc.) or hazardous agents or chemicals (such as oxygen, ammonia, pesticides, or glues).
Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), conducted by UNICEF is similar to SIMPOC in that it can either be conducted as stand-alone surveys or attached as modules to other surveys. MICS is comprised of three modules: the household module, the education module, and the child labor module. The child labor module generally contains seven questions; they focus on the hours worked, whether the work was conducted outside the home, what kind of household chores were done, and whether children worked in family enterprises.
The questions in the child labor module are addressed to the caretaker, usually the mother, of each child aged 5 to 14 who resides in the household. There may be some measurement problems related to the caretakers’ responding to the questions on the children’s work activities rather than the children themselves. The caretakers may tend to underestimate the activities of their children, particularly if there is a negative societal view toward childrens’ working. Furthermore, caretakers may not recall in detail or accurately the activities of their children. Further research about the various proxy respondents in regard to working children is needed.
By 1996, 60 countries had implemented MICS on a stand-alone mode and 40 others had added MICS modules to other surveys. At the end of the 1990s, 66 countries had implemented MICS, with 49 reporting on working children for the first time. An independent evaluation of the data collected by MICS has shown that the data are of a high quality (Ritualo, 2002). However, because MICS is not targeted at collecting child labor data, it falls short in some key areas. First, it does not gather information on the industry and occupation of child laborers, which makes it impossible to establish whether children are working in hazardous conditions or occupations. MICS also only covers children between the ages of 5 and 14, while
the ILO standard considers all persons under 18 to be children. Therefore, a large population that is covered under Conventions No. 138 and No. 182 is not covered by MICS. Nevertheless, because education and health are indicators linked to child labor, MICS is an important source that can supplement data from other sources, as well as fill gaps in data for countries where SIMPOC surveys have not been conducted.
The ILO initiated the rapid assessment methodology out of an urgent need for data on the worst forms of child labor when Convention No. 182 was adopted. Rapid assessment provides qualitative, descriptive information at the microlevel on the worst forms of child labor. The ILO has conducted over 40 of these rapid assessments in conjunction with trade unions, NGOs, research institutions, and universities. The methodology is participatory, flexible, and inexpensive, and it yields high-quality data.
The ILO selected countries for rapid assessment on the basis of three main criteria: (1) political will, (2) local research capacity to carry out the project, and (3) the need for the research on the worst forms of child labor. Strong political will is key to ensuring the program’s swift implementation, along with a government’s willingness to use the information generated to improve awareness of child labor and reinforce efforts to eliminate it. The second criterion is necessary to ensure the quality and reliability of the results. Finally, one of the goals of the program was to test the methodology on the worst forms of child labor—from drug trafficking to commercial agriculture—so the type of child labor and the need for the research in a particular country were also taken into consideration when countries were chosen.4
The rapid assessment methodology is intended to provide qualitative and descriptive information on the characteristics of working children, their families, and communities at the local or micro level. It can provide a more detailed picture of the daily lives of working children and the conditions within which they work than other methodologies. It can also be used in the first stages of program planning when little information is available
The first round of Time-Bound Program countries—El Salvador, Nepal, and Tanzania—were also given priority when the countries were selected for research; for more information on the Time-Bound Program, see http://www.ilo.org/childlabor.
about the working lives of children and what interventions would be appropriate.
The rapid assessments carried out by the ILO have been conducted by research institutions, universities, NGOs, and in one case, a trade union. The teams of researchers that conduct them are generally comprised of persons with high-level technical and analytical capacities, as well as persons familiar with working children. The latter group includes social workers, psychologists, child labor experts, statisticians, and people with a deep knowledge of the local community, culture, and worst forms of child labor. In many cases, the researchers partner with local NGOs to help locate and reach the working children and help the children feel at ease with the researchers. In order to ensure that the children feel as comfortable and as safe as possible when they are being interviewed, members of the community who speak the local dialect are involved in the study and gender sensitivities are taken into consideration.
The great difficulty in obtaining quality information on the worst forms of child labor arises for a number of reasons. First, many of them (e.g., use of children in drug production and trafficking, prostitution, and pornography) are illegal in most countries, making it difficult to locate the children exploited by criminal activities. Even if the children are located alone, they may refuse to talk to the interviewers for fear of being further harmed. If the employers, parents, or guardians are present during the interviews, the children may be afraid to answer the questions truthfully. Furthermore, children may not want to participate in the data collection efforts because they can lose time and money by forgoing earnings during the time taken by the interview. In other cases, children may have been interviewed previously by a researcher promising changes in their lives and now be unwilling as their circumstances did not change.
In the rapid assessment of child domestic workers in Nepal, for example, employers were present during most of the interviews. In 14 cases, participants were dropped from the study after their employers refused to continue with the interviews. In the rapid assessment on child porters in Nepal, “adult porters were often present and influenced [the] responses” of the children being interviewed (Ritualo, 2002).
The rapid assessment methodology is not designed to extrapolate figures or make generalizations. The number of respondents is on average only a little more than 100 children. The selection of the respondents varies greatly from study to study. In some cases, the children are contacted through the rehabilitation programs they are involved in or through the
knowledge of other key informants. In other cases, the interviewers take to the streets and interview any child they find working in the particular worst form of child labor being studied. In others, households are selected and interviewed. Rapid assessments can be important precursors to SIMPOC and provide background information in creating targeted programs, but as noted, they are not designed to gather statistical data and cannot be used to make generalizations beyond those children interviewed.
Other Sources of Evidence on Child Labor
U.S. Department of Labor Reports
The U.S. Department of Labor’s International Child Labor Program has produced several congressionally mandated reports on various aspects of child labor, including the use of child labor in such U.S. imports as manufacture and mining, agriculture, and the apparel industry; specific topic areas such as consumer labels and child prostitution; and broad topics such as the efforts to eliminate child labor and the economic considerations of child labor. The other reports in the series are similar to most academic research reports that provide an overview of the field and the progress that has been made in answering specific research questions, for instance, An Economic Consideration of Child Labor (U.S. Department of Labor, 2000).
The Department of Labor’s case study methodology consists of holding a public hearing to gather information from a wide range of stakeholders, including U.S. trade unions, consumer groups, corporations, human rights groups, and trade associations; foreign governments and NGOs; and international organizations. The department then conducts field visits during which staff meets with government officials, trade unionists, journalists, and human rights groups. It also visits production facilities. Finally, other reports and sources of information are taken into consideration.
In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Trade and Development Act of 2000 (TDA) (P.L. 106-200). The TDA requires the Secretary of Labor to submit an annual report on the progress of countries that are beneficiaries of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences in the implementation of international commitments to eliminate the worst forms of child labor (U.S. Department of Labor, 2002).
In accordance with this legislation, in 2002 the Department of Labor released a comprehensive report on the worst forms of child labor. The report provides a broad overview of child labor in 138 countries and terri-
tories. It draws on data gathered by the U.S. Department of State and on reports and materials from foreign countries, the ILO, and the World Bank (U.S. Department of Labor, 2002). It also provides an overview of government initiatives that combat the worst forms of child labor, the incidence and nature of child labor in each country, and child labor laws and enforcement.
These Department of Labor reports do not generally provide new data; however, the information gathered from site visits is helpful in providing a context for statistical data. The 2001 report provides a useful overview, particularly on the worst forms of child labor. However, it is not designed as an in-depth study of the problem of child labor in any particular country.
Some national governments publish their own data and reports on child labor. However, many countries conduct surveys and report on child labor in conjunction with either the ILO (SIMPOC) or the World Bank, as described above. Some state reports are listed on the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) website for the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, but these reports do not always address child labor.
Reports from Nongovernmental Organizations
Numerous NGOs, both at the national and international level, have taken up the cause of child labor and have begun to produce reports of their own. Of the international NGOs, the most noteworthy is the Global March Against Child Labour, headquartered in New Delhi, India. It is a coalition of more than 1,400 social organizations and people—including national NGOs, trade unions, religious groups, government ministries, schools, and individuals from 144 countries—that seeks to eradicate child labor globally.
The Global March produces the Global Report on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (updated November 2001) with data from a wide variety of sources, ranging from ILO studies and government reports to newspaper articles. These sources are not evaluated or screened for reliability. An interest in providing “complete” information has resulted in the inclusion of some data that the organization itself considers unreliable. Because there are no controls on the quality of the data presented, the usefulness of the
report is limited to providing a broad and sometimes anecdotal outline of the child labor problem, particularly in countries for which no other data exist.
Other NGOs whose reports are incorporated in the Global March’s reports fall prey to similar problems in evaluation and screening of data. Most of these reports rely on ILO reports and statistics and do not offer competing primary sources; as a result, they may only add new analysis to the mix of available information.5 We note some of the more prominent NGO sources and reports as examples. Most of these reports are on individual countries and specific industries or sectors, mostly for a particular year. Given the diversity in their approaches to gathering information and data and the difficulty in assessing their representativeness, these reports could at best be used as a starting point for a more scientifically based inquiry.
The Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch has largely focused its efforts on forced and bonded child labor. It has published several reports on child labor in individual countries, as well as globally. Its recent publications include Child Labor in Agriculture (Human Rights Watch, 2000b) and a section on “Children’s Rights: Child Labor” in its World Report 2002. Individual country reports include Small Change: Bonded Child Labor in India’s Silk Industry (Human Rights Watch, 2003), Child Labor in Egypt’s Cotton Fields (Human Rights Watch, 2001), Child Farm Workers in the U.S.A. (Human Rights Watch, 2000a), Bonded Child Labor in India (Human Rights Watch, 1996), Trafficking in Nepali Girls and Women to India’s Brothels (1995b), Street Children and Child Soldiers in Sudan (Human Rights Watch, 1995a), and Trafficking of Burmese Women and Girls into Thailand’s Brothels (Human Rights Watch, 1993).
Anti-Slavery International was set up with the specific objective of ending slavery throughout the world. The organization has produced several publications on child labor, child trafficking, and child slavery. Some of these publications are country-specific, while others are more general treatments of a particular subject matter. For example, publications on child labor include The Impact of Discrimination on Working Children and on the Phenomenon of Child Labour (Anti-Slavery International, 2002), Child
Labour in Nepal (Sattaur, 1993), Children in Bondage: Slaves of the Subcontinent (Anti-Slavery International, 1991), and Kashmiri Carpet Children: Exploited Village Weavers (Cross, 1991).
Education to Combat Abusive Child Labor, an activity of Creative Associates International, Inc., based in Washington, D.C., has developed a database of information related to child labor by country. The database includes a country overview of child labor, child development indicators, child labor by sector, USAID activities, other child labor program activities, and ratification status on international conventions.
Other NGOs that are also engaged in work to eliminate child labor are Defense for Children International, Free the Children, International Save the Children Alliance, and World Vision International. Like those mentioned above, these NGOs periodically publish newsletters, articles, and other materials that provide information on the child labor situation in a particular country or sector.
Certain NGOs work in several countries to eliminate child labor in a particular sector of the economy. RUGMARK Foundation, for instance, is a global NGO working to eliminate child labor in the carpet industry. Similarly, the Clean Clothes Campaign focuses on the garment industry and issues reports and news regarding child labor in that sector specifically.
There are several umbrella organizations that bring together NGOs working in the child labor field. Child Workers in Asia and End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) International are examples of such networks. Child Workers in Asia produces a few publications; however, its main focus is in “mapping” the NGOs that work locally in Asian countries. ECPAT International is a network of organizations and individuals focused on the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography, and trafficking of children for sexual purposes. It maintains a searchable database that provides information by country or category on implementing actions and a profile of commercial sexual exploitation of children. It also provides information on the organizations working on these issues within the country.
Trade unions are also a source of information on child labor. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has launched a worldwide campaign to stop child labor. The ICFTU provides annual reports on labor rights violations by country, including child labor (see discussion in Chapter 2). Finally, there are several organizations that provide news, online libraries, or compilation of secondary sources related to child labor. Some examples are Child Slave Labor News, Child Rights Information Network, and Childwatch International Research Network.
In determining whether national laws comply with the ILO. Conventions No. 138 and No. 182, there are two main sources of information. The NATLEX database lists national laws, which can help determine whether a country’s laws comply with the ILO child labor conventions. ILOLEX provides information gathered by the ILO’s supervisory process and documents compliance issues for those countries that have ratified the two conventions Beyond the existence of laws, an assessment of the adequacy of the laws and the rigor of enforcement requires research on a country-by-country basis. Our proposed government performance indicators are designed to assist this process.
The University of Chicago’s Foreign Law: Legal Resources on the Internet6 provides data on laws on child refugees, child prostitution and sexual exploitation, children in armed conflict, child slavery, and child labor. The University of Iowa’s Center for Human Rights has a Child Labor Research Initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor to collect, translate, and establish a database of national laws dealing with the worst forms of child labor in 25 countries.
Academic and Other Research
The economics of child labor has attracted a lot of analytical attention from economists, economic historians, and other social scientists. A recent literature survey on child labor in South Asia (Srivastava, 2003) lists more than 20 papers and books, not including papers reporting on surveys and statistics. Brown et al. (2003) provide a comprehensive analysis of child labor research and policy. Levison (1998) is a valuable, but as yet unpublished, source.
The ILO, World Bank, and UNICEF initiated a joint interagency research program entitled Understanding Children’s Work and its Impact in December 2000. The project, based at the Innocent Research Centre in Florence, Italy, is aimed at providing more and better data on child labor. The project website provides access to child labor statistics, interventions to combat child labor, and research papers.7
Many serious research gaps that remain were identified at the Global Network Meeting of Child Labor Researchers organized by IPEC in Geneva on December 5-6, 2002. These gaps relate to every aspect of child labor, including its economics, worst forms, interaction with education, and public policies. The difficulties for researchers caused by alternative definitions and lack of data were found to be serious. The researchers also noted that very little research on child labor is available on large parts of the globe, including China, sub-Saharan Africa, and Islamic and postcommunist countries. Researchers also noted that work by social scientists other than economists needs to be given more weight than it has received in the debates on child labor. The meeting stressed the importance of interdisciplinary exchange and research. To facilitate this exchange, IPEC plans to maintain an interactive web-based database where researchers will be able to share information about child labor projects. One of the goals of this online exchange is to identify areas where gaps exist.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Much of the information available on child labor is subject to serious limitations because the data collection methods are not focused specifically on child labor. A system that generates data periodically and is focused primarily on child labor is essential in monitoring the implementation of child labor conventions and in assessing the progress of countries toward its elimination. In our judgment, ILO’s SIMPOC survey seems to be the best effort thus far.
The committee recognizes that mounting SIMPOC-like surveys on an adequate scale in many countries would involve significant resource costs. IPEC researchers estimate that the unit cost per household of a SIMPOC survey ranges from $6 to $30, not including the fixed cost for overhead. The average unit cost for a modular survey per household (implemented in conjunction with an ongoing national survey) is $11, and it is $23 for a stand-alone survey. Even at a modest cost of $15 per household, a survey of a minimum of 10,000 households would cost $150,000 per year just for data collection. We encourage governments and the international organizations to allocate the necessary funds to improve the available data in this important area. In addition, compensating parents for lost income from labor of their children and providing adequate schooling for children taken out of child labor would also involve substantial resource cost. Where feasible, these programs have potential to help ease the transi-
tion away from child labor to a more socially responsible and healthy labor market situation.
While the private and social benefits from educating children are likely to be significant, several factors can nonetheless contribute to the perpetuation of child labor, including the poverty of parents. First, even if there are long-term benefits to a family of keeping children in school and out of the workforce, households may be forced to look only at short-term costs and benefits as a matter of survival. Second, household heads may misjudge the costs and benefits of child labor (possibly due to cultural bias against schooling girls, for example) and thus make decisions that are not economically rational, even on private terms. In other cases, the private costs of keeping children in school may exceed the benefits: in these cases, households are unlikely to invest in their children’s education unless their costs are subsidized or they are compensated in other ways. Of course, given the social benefits, governments ought to find it worthwhile to subsidize or compensate for education, provided that they have the resources to do so. Although the fiscal situation of many developing countries and their current budgetary priorities leave little resources for subsidizing education, there is often room for reallocating resources and raising more. Developing countries and the broader international community can work together to address the causes of child labor, including through the promotion of economic and social development, the enforcement of appropriate laws, and raising resources to fund effective enforcement and education programs to realize the goals of eliminating child labor and providing access to quality education.
Further study needs to be done on programs that have removed children from work and provided their parents with compensation in order to assess whether these programs can be replicated on a broader basis and to determine the costs of such programs. In this regard, the experience with taking children out of work by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the RUGMARK Foundation in Nepal would be worth studying. At the National Academies forum in Sri Lanka on March 5-6, 2003, BGMEA reported setting a milestone in the history of child labor by removing children from a large number of BGMEA factories and placing them in special schools jointly administered by BGMEA, the ILO, and UNICEF. The first Memorandum of Understanding between BGMEA, ILO, and UNICEF was signed in July 1995 with a view to achieving this objective. As part of this project, a joint survey identified 10,546 child workers under the age of 14 in the garment manufac-
turing sector in Bangladesh. Initially, more than 9,500 children were enrolled in 336 schools. BGMEA has spent over $600,000 for the project. Following the success of this first initiative, BGMEA signed a second Memorandum of Understanding with the same partners in June 2000. A recent ILO report indicates that BGMEA member factories are virtually free of child labor at the present time.
The RUGMARK Foundation reported successful outcomes for its child labor rehabilitation project at the same forum in Sri Lanka. RUGMARK reported that 497 children (342 boys and 155 girls) have been rescued. The cost of rehabilitation, including schooling at the primary level per child, was estimated at $500 per child. These costs are expected to go down over time, given that RUGMARK is involved in additional activities related to child labor. Even if the replication of such initiatives is possible, it should be undertaken simultaneously with SIMPOC or SIMPOC-like surveys, so that baseline data are available to assess their impact.
6-1 The committee recommends that national and international agencies cooperate in creating a system of data generation focused primarily on child labor, such as the ILO’s SIMPOC surveys.
6-2 The committee recommends that research be done on the scalability and cost-effectiveness of successful pilot programs (e.g., RUGMARK Foundation in Nepal, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and PROGRESA in Mexico) that have removed children from work, rehabilitating and educating them and involving their parents.
Acemoglu, D., and Angrist, J. (1999). How large are the social returns to education: Evidence from compulsory schooling laws. (NBER Working Paper No. 7444). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Angrist, J., and Kreuger, A. (1991). Does compulsory schooling affect schooling and earnings? Quarterly Journal of Economics, 106(4), 979-1014.
Anti-Slavery International. (1991). Children in bondage: Slaves of the subcontinent. London: Author.
Anti-Slavery International. (2002). The impact of discrimination on working children and on the phenomenon of child labour. London: Author.
Ashagrie, K. (2001). Current progress in implementing new methods and conducting innovative surveys for measuring exploitation of children. Statistical Journal of the United Nations ECE, 18, 187-203.
Bolin-Hort, P. (1989). Work, family, and the state: Child labor and the organization of production in the British cotton industry, 1780-1920. Lund, Sweden: Lund University Press.
Brachman, S. (2002). Child labor: Theory, evidence, and policy. In K. Basu, H. Horn, L. Roman, and J. Shapiro (Eds.), International labor standards: History, theory, and policy options (pp. 195-247). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Brown, D.K., Deardorff, A.V., and Stern, R.M. (2003) Child labor: Theory, evidence, and policy. In K. Basu, H. Horn, L. Roman, and J. Shapiro (Eds.), International labor standards: History, theory, and policy options (pp. 195-247). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Brown, M., Christiansen, J., and Phillips, P. (1992). The decline of child labor in the U.S. fruit and vegetable canning industry: Law or economics. Business History Review, 66(4), 723-770.
Cross, P. (1991). Kashmiri carpet children: Exploited village weavers. London: Anti-Slavery International.
Engerman, S. (2003). The history and political economy of international labor standards. In K. Basu, H. Horn, L. Roman, and J. Shapiro (Eds.), International labor standards: History, theory, and policy options. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Fishback, P. (1998). Operations of “unfettered” labor markets: Exit and voice in American labor markets at the turn of the century. Journal of Economic Literature, 36(June), 722-765.
Government of India. (2002). National human development report. New Delhi: Author, Planning Commission.
Grimsrud, B. (2001, October). Measuring and analyzing child labor: Methodological issues. (Social Protection Discussion Paper No. 0123). Washington, DC: World Bank.
Human Rights Watch. (1993). Trafficking of Burmese women and girls into Thailand’s brothels. New York, NY: Author.
Human Rights Watch. (1995a). Street children and child soldiers in Sudan. New York, NY: Author.
Human Rights Watch. (1995b). Trafficking in Nepali girls and women to India’s brothels. New York, NY: Author.
Human Rights Watch. (1996). Bonded child labor in India. New York, NY: Author.
Human Rights Watch. (2000a). Child farm workers in the U.S.A. New York, NY: Author.
Human Rights Watch. (2000b). Child labor in agriculture. New York, NY: Author.
Human Rights Watch. (2001). Child labor in Egypt’s cotton fields. New York, NY: Author.
Human Rights Watch. (2003). Small change: Bonded child labor in India’s silk industry. New York, NY: Author.
International Labour Organization. (1973). C138, Minimum age convention, 58th Session of the conference. Available: http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/convdisp1.htm [November 20, 2003].
International Labour Organization. (1998, October). Report to the conference: Sixteenth international conference of labour statisticians. Geneva: International Labour Office.
International Labour Organization. (2000). Current international recommendations on labour statistics: 2000 edition. Geneva: International Labour Office.
International Labour Organization. (2002a). A future without child labour: Global report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Geneva: International Labour Office.
International Labour Organization. (2002b). Every child counts: New global estimates on child labour. Geneva: International Labour Office.
Landes, W., and Solmon, L. (1972). Compulsory schooling legislation: An economic analysis of law and social change in the nineteenth century. Journal of Economic History, 32(March), 54-91.
Levison, D. (1998). Child labor annotated bibliography. University of Minnesota, unpublished paper.
Lleras-Muney, A. (2001). Were compulsory attendance and child labor laws effective? An analysis from 1915 to 1939. (NBER Working Paper No. 8563). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Margo, R., and Finegan, T. (1996). Compulsory schooling legislation and school attendance in turn-of-the-century America: A “natural experiment” approach. Economic Letters, 53(1), 103-110.
Mehran, F. (2000). ILO labour force participation rates for 10-14 years old versus UNESCO school enrollment ratios. ILO Bulletin of Labour Statistics. Available: http://www.laborsta.org [October 2003].
Moehling, C.M. (1999). State child labor laws and the decline of child labor. Explorations in Economic History, 36, 72-106.
Nardinelli, C. (1990). Child labor and the industrial revolution. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Ritualo, A. (2002, July). Measuring child labour. Paper prepared for the National Research Council Workshop on International Labor Standards: Quality of Information and Measures of Progress. Washington, DC. Available: http://www7.nationalacademies.org/internationallabor/DQworkshop.html [October 23, 2003].
Sattaur, O. (1993). Child labour in Nepal. London: Anti-Slavery International.
Scholliers, P. (1995). Grown-ups, boys and girls in the Ghent cotton industry: The Voortman Mills, 1835-1914. Social History, 20(2), 201-218.
Sephiri, T., and Groenningsaeter, A. (2003, March). Working conditions in Southern Africa: Child labor and collective bargaining. Presentation for the Forum on Monitoring International Labor Standards. Pretoria, South Africa.
Srivastava, J. (2003). South Asia annual report. Jaipur, India: Centre for International Trade, Economics and Environment.
United Nations. (1996). World population prospects 1950-2050:1996 revision. New York, NY: Author, Population Division.
U.S. Department of Labor. (2000). By the sweat and toil of children (Volume VI): An economic consideration of child labor. Washington, DC: Bureau of International Labor Affairs.
U.S. Department of Labor. (2002). The U.S. Department of Labor’s 2001 findings on the worst forms of child labor. Washington, DC: Bureau of International Labor Affairs.
Weiner, M. (1991). The child and the state in India: Child labor and education policy in comparative perspective. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.