Curbing Child Labour In African Countries Young People Essay

1.0 Definition of Child Labour

The International Labor Organization (ILO, 2004) defined child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development. Also, child labour refers to any working activity that is physically, mentally, socially or morally harmful and dangerous to children, with interference in their education by depriving them of the chance to attend school, prematurely obliging them to leave school, or requiring them to combine schooling with extremely long and heavy work.

2.0 The Negative Effect of Child Labour on Human Capital Accumulation and Economic Development

One of the most significant problems in developing countries especially in Africa is the unpleasant incident of child labour. Children do labour to earn money by sacrificing their health, their education, and their normal development to maturity. The child labour exists prevalently in most countries in Africa. It has been a deep-rooted evil phenomenon, which delay the development of human capital accumulation and economic growth. Most African countries are lying on a stagnation situation or downward spiral in which poor performance in human development has been liable to poor economic growth and poverty, which consecutively discouraged human development achievements.

Nowadays, while most of developed countries are enjoying wealth and prosperity, some of developing nations and most third world countries in Africa are struggling themselves to combat the problem of child labour. The prevalence of child labour causes the children to occupy their lifetime with working, leaving school and education behind. The main aim for these children to work would be the wages gain from working in order to support household income. However, because of the time in a day is limited to 24 hours, there will be high probability for a working child to forgo schooling if they want to concentrate working to help their parents’ income. As working children become an adult without a sound education, their future generation soon is likely to do the same duty as they were child ago. As a result, there will be a lack of human capital improvement in one country even after generations, and thus in long-term will bring about stagnant economic development.

3.0 Child Labour in African Countries

The ILO is an international organisation charged to count with child labor. The ILO reported in 2004 that 218 million children engaged in economic activity globally, excluding child domestic labour (UNICEF, 2006). Within this number, 126 million or one in every six children aged 5-17 years were trapped in hazardous work. The ILO estimated that children represent 40-50 percent of all victims of forced labour, or 5.7 million children were caught in bonded and forced labour. Available data suggested that more boys than girls were economically active, but girls who are engaged in household chores and sibling childcare not be accounted for in these statistics (ILO, 2002). Children who were working in household of a third party or ’employer’ are particularly at risk to abuse and exploitation. The ILO estimates that more girls below age 16 were in domestic (household) service than in any other category child labour.

African continent has the highest percentage of economically active children. The ILO study showed that 41 percent of children in Africa continent are devoting to labour work (ILO, 2003). The sectors where child labour is most employed are agriculture, fishing, hunting, and forestry. More than 30 percent of African children aged between 10 and 14 are working in agriculture sector. In most countries which are producing raw materials, children are used to work on agriculture estates of cocoa, coffee, and cotton. Also in Africa, the incident of child labour varies among areas in the continent. Child labour occupies nearly most of the teenagers’ population in the countries of central Africa. Meanwhile it is nearly absolutely lacking in South Africa, and the similar situation occurs in the nations of northern Africa.

As stated by the ILO in 2003, there are 400,000 child labourers in Rwanda. Within this number, there are 120,000 are considered to be engaged in the worst forms of child labour, while a number of 60,000 identified as child domestic workers. In Rwanda, children are also involved in prostitution in several large cities. The report showed that 94 percent of these child prostitutes lived in extreme poverty stricken, 40 percent had missing both of their parents, and 41 percent had never enroll themselves in schooling. In Zambia, according to the Zambian, there are a number of 595,000 child labourers in the country. Of these, 58 percent are below age 15, thus, disallowed for any kind of employment as controlled by the Employment of Young Persons Act.

According to the ILO in 2003, as much as 1.9 million children in Kenya, with age ranges between 5 and 17, are child labourers. Only 3.2 percent of this population has accomplished a secondary level (school) of education, and 12.7 percent had never been to school. In Kenya, during the peak coffee picking season, it was approximated that up to 30 percent of the coffee pickers are under age 15. In Tanzania, it has been estimated that 4,600 children working in small-scale mining. It is common to find children as young as eight digging thirty-meter underground in mines for at least eight hours per day. It is usually been carried out without proper light and ventilation, and child workers are exposed to risk of injury or death underground.

Furthermore, in Zimbabwe, it was approximated that 5 million children with ages between 5 and 17 are being compelled to labour work. While, a survey conducted on child labourers in small-scale mines in Madagascar found that 58 percent that population were aged 12 or under. In addition, only a third had being exposed to learn skills, and half were belonged to families that trapped in poverty stricken with bad living conditions. Moreover in Africa, a number of 120,000 children below the age of 18 have been forced into military labors such as child soldiers, or military messengers, cooks, porters, or sex slaves. An amount ranged 10,000-15,000 children from Mali are working on plantations in Côte d’Ivoire. Most of them are victims of child trafficking. It is estimated that 50,000 children are working as household servant in Morocco. In West Africa, an estimated 35,000 children are in commercial sexual exploitation.

The Sub-Saharan Africa is the geographical area of the world with the highest rate of child labour. As stated by the ILO report, the high population’s growth rate in Sub-Saharan Africa corresponds with the increasing of poverty in the region (ILO, 2004). In addition, the HIV/Aids outspread hinders all effort against child labour although the report does show clear evident of improvement in gross school enrolments, where the primary school registrations in the area have raised by 38 percent between 1990 and 2000.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that in 2002, regarding child trafficking in Togo, asserted that the governments of western African countries had done fragile enforcement to curb the prevalent trafficking of child labour (Human Rights Watch, 2003). As reported by HRW, the local crisis of children trafficking was brought about by HIV/Aids. A large number of these children are orphans, compelled to work for survival after the death of their HIV- positive parents. The HRW asserted that children are forced into labour work in several countries in western Africa. The traffickers attract the children by promising them with professional training as well as sponsored schooling. The vast majority of these children were trafficked by neighbouring countries, such as Burkina Faso and Mali. The incidence of child labour trafficking occurs in many paths, as the government didn’t execute strict enforcement to ban it. Girls were sold to work in the night markets, and during the day as baby sitters, and victims are generally subjected to physical violence and psychological abuse.

The countries of destination of child trafficking in general have power over economies of western Africa. The report by Institute of Tropical Agriculture in 2002 showed that 70 percent of world cocoa production made in western Africa (Boas, M. & Huser, A., 2006). From this statistics, 43 percent world cocoa production supplied by Cote d’Ivoire, 15 percent in Ghana, 7 percent in Nigeria, 4 percent in Cameroon, and the remains 1 percent in other regions in western Africa. In these supplier countries, the ripe cocoa is collected from plantation and processed by children. Children aged between 5 and 15, all came from poor background, were lured by the traffickers to leave their countries, even with forged labour contracts, were sold to the owners of agricultural estates. Often the children realised of their condition only afterwards, when they are forced into sheds and locked up inside. Children who ran away from the plantations disclosed of how they were victimised, exploited and tortured, and never received any pay.

4.0 Major Determinant of Child Labor

Child labour is an issue in worldwide concern, especially in least developed countries in Africa, with many governments officially declares laws that protect children from labour work. There is no single root of child labour in Africa, and the important factors that cause children to become labourers are wide-ranging. Indeed, the particular conditions will differ depending to the different background between children. In spite of this, the determinants of child labour may be categorised into two groups based on 1) demand determinants or market mechanism, and 2) supply determinants. This classification is based on the works by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (Edmonds, E. V., 2003; Bhalotra, S., 2003). Demand side determinants are the factors which encourage an employer to employ children into labour work. While, supply side determinants are the factors which induce the parents or head of the households to make a decision about the exploitation of children’s time into labour work.

Demand side determinants of child labour are the composition of labour market, the current production technology, the weak law-making or weak implementation of legislation, children’s beneficial features for a specific work, small amount paid to children with extra working hours, and little bargaining power of children. In contrast, the supply side determinants of child labour origin from the household background. These include a range of socio-economic variables such as poverty, lack of educational and public facilities, unemployment of adults, and population pressure. These variables are associated with the decision making of the household to send the children to work.

5.0 Curbing the Child Labour in Africa: A Few Recommendations on Development Policy for Human Capital Improvement

Most countries in Africa prohibited the employ of children in economic activities, especially the worst form of child labour. This was due to its bad consequences of the children in their present and future time. However, most of law enforcement failed to curb child labour. Labour intensive industries and agricultural sectors will always welcome a huge demand for cheap labour, in other word, child workers. Moreover, parents are willingly to send their children working to increase household income in order to survive in poverty stricken. Drawing upon the historical experience of several countries, both economic factors and legal restrictions played a role in reducing child labour, although legislation appears to have been less significant. I suggested that banning child labour through law enforcement and legislation is an inappropriate action. This is because this action will reduce the welfare of people. The primary purpose of working is to earn money, to earn living. Parents submitted their children to labour work to help families’ income, to maintain their life survival. After studying the conditions child labour in several African countries, I would like to suggest some development policies that can be implemented by their governments in order to curb child labour, then improving the welfare of children in order to develop high human capital in Africa in the future. Those recommended policies are:

5.1 Reducing Household Poverty

The first and major cause of child labour is poverty. Absolute poverty as a synonym for extreme poverty is the lack of enough resources (such as financial resources) to ensure of obtaining basic life necessities. The poverty is concerned with the income level of the household. A strong negative relationship exists between child labour and total income of a household. The additional level of income will reduce the probability of a child to work. Most of the incident of child labour as a parental decision, where parents will only send their children to work when compelled to do so by poverty stricken. Therefore, when parents’ income surpasses some threshold, parents tend to withdraw the children out of labour market (Basu, K. & Van, P. H., 1998). A historical analysis has shown that the decline of child labour was highly associated with the rise of married women’s participation in the labour force (Cunningham, H., 2000). This is because the rise of married women’s participation in the labour force had caused the children’s contribution (income) to the economy of the working class family become less significant.

I would like to suggest for governments to implement the minimum wage legislation on adults. The increase in adults wage will decrease the population of child in labour market since fewer children in a family will have to work. The increase in income by implementing the minimum wage legislation will reduce the frequency of child labour. Therefore, the implementation of minimum wage law’s policy in African countries is an appropriate action in checking the stagnation of child labour.

I would like to recommend for the government to increase employment opportunities for women. Government ought to stimulate sectors of economies that highly associated with women, such as laundry, cleaning, cooking, and sewing. Poor families must also be allowed to have loan from financial institution, so that they will have opportunities to start their own businesses and economic activities. This will be an embarkment of a large scale poverty alleviation program and target income support, in purpose to keep children away from work market and attending schools.

5.2 Providing Better Quality of Education for Children

Evidence from communities’ areas in Ghana showed that the incidence of high children’s employment and the low school enrolment is caused by the bad quality of education (Ray, R., 2002). This has led to the lack of importance of education for children as viewed by most parents. The likelihood of full-time school attending could be increased by reducing the cost of schooling. The expansion of school allocation by government, which reduces the opportunity-cost of schooling, would decrease the number of working children, but attending school (Cigno, A., Rosati, F. C. & Tzannatos, Z., 2002).

I would like to advise for the government that the education policies should aim to improve the quality of schooling, and expansion in schooling subsidy must prove impressive in order to encourage parents keeping their children in schools rather than submitting them employed. Government policies should center on improving school infrastructure facilities and quality of schooling especially in rural areas. The quality of education will determine the parents’ awareness concerning the education route as a way to advance life status. The low quality of education will dispute the need of schooling for their children if to have a promising future with a stable and well-paid job. This kind of judgment is normally found among people communities with low income level because their occupations are commonly requiring no formal education attainment, but basic skills as a cheap labour.

I would like to put forward for the reduction of costs of schooling. This is purposely to reduce opportunity cost of schooling, in term of payment (salary) obtained from working children. Scholarships for schooling students should not for only school tuition fees, but must cover other benefits, such as school accessories like school uniforms and free meals in order to make education more attractive. The school enrolment, especially primary school enrolment is most essential for children to ensure of obtaining basic and necessary education before jumping into the higher stages of education. Students who are obliged to attend a longer years of education by compulsory education laws will make higher wages in their future as compared to others with less years of education. Therefore, public investment in improving school infrastructure will give rise to a significant beneficial effect to born better educated labour force in the future with higher productivity to the society.

5.3 Controlling the Family Size through Policies

Among fifteen countries with highest fertility rate in the world, the fourteen of them are belonged to African countries (United Nations, 2007). The high fertility and birth rate each year had caused to the large family size in Africa. And, the larger the number of children, so then the larger the total cost of living and rearing children. The big number of siblings had forced the elder siblings to working, instead of attending school. According to a study, this additional work increases with the number of younger siblings and the spacing between siblings. Because family sizes raise, the additional work for elder siblings will significantly be increased to help additional households income (Edmonds, E. V., 2006).

I would like to advocate for the government of those African countries to implement the one or two-child policy in their countries. This is purposely to decrease fertility rate in those countries. This policy can be adopted from the China one-child policy introduced in 1978. It was created by the Chinese government to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China. After the introduction of the one-child policy, the fertility rate in China fell from over three births per woman in 1980 to approximately 1.8 births in 2008.

In my point of view, the controlling of family size will reduce the total cost of rearing many children in a family. This will increase disposable income in a family, in which this income can be saved for future use and to finance good quality education for children. The government must promise a direct benefit for the only first one or two children in the family, such as free schooling or educational subsidies. This family size control may promise a better quality of children with high human capital, even with smaller numbers, rather than having a large number of children but with low human capital. This not only improve the welfare of each children, but also give to human capital improvement in Africa, and thus in long-term will bring about healthier economic development.

5.4 Introducing Modern Labour-Saving Technologies into Economic Sectors

The major characteristic of labour markets in most developing countries is a high proportion of employment of unskilled labour force in the informal sectors. This trait has led to a creation of large labour intensive market space with low-level of technology that encourages the demand for children to become labour force (Edmonds, E. V, 2003; Dinopoulos, E. & Zhao, L., 2007). Thus, the level of technology in an economy will determine both the supply and demand for child labour.

I would like to suggest that the introduction and adoption of modern labour-saving technologies as a tool to inhibit child labour. At a distance from raising agricultural productivity, the adoption of modern labour-saving technologies could free children from repetitive working duties in agriculture and thus increase their chances of attending school. Therefore, policies and programmes that promote the adoption of land and modern labour-saving technologies should be listed as policy tools to curb child labour in the African countries. The introduction of new technologies such as mechanization or automation in industries, and the use of improved strains and fertilizers in agricultural sector will reduce the demand for unskilled child labour. A study had also found that the returns to education will also increase because people understand the need for higher education attainment to fulfill the high demand for high-skilled labour. (Cigno, A., Rosati, F. C. & Tzannatos, Z., 2002). Thus, this will discourage the supply of child labour. This low motivation of supplying child labour and low interest to employ unskilled labour will further the declining of children exploitation into economic activities.

In my opinion, from the technological perspective, it should be noticed that children’s participation are unnecessary in the process of industrialisation because child workers keep low human capital stock. In addition to the least developed African countries, in most industries where children work, there are existing technologies that being utilised in developed countries. Thus, the employment of these modern technologies by African countries would replace tasks performed by child labour, and finally reduce child employment in productive economic activities.

I would also like to advise the African countries to welcome globalisation in their economic policies. The accepting of globalisation will improve capital market through foreign direct investment (FDI), and will generate technological and knowledge spillover. This will help introducing new modern labour-saving technologies as a tool to improve economic sectors, and at the same time will inhibit child labour. This is according to a study which had found that the forces of globalisation can curb the phenomenon of child labour through the trade policies that beneficial for modern sector, and the increase in FDI in modern sector that will reduce the demand of child labour without deteriorating the wage-income distribution. (Dinopoulos, E. & Zhao, L., 2007).

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