This document is the research manual that guided qualitative data collection as part of a sub-study within Young Lives on ‘Stimulating evidence-based approaches to child work/labour in Ethiopia’, one of a wider set of activities exploring the role of research in improving policy and practice in Ethiopia.
Before the field study was designed, a series of consultation meetings was held with local stakeholders who work in the area of child poverty and well-being. This protocol reflects the areas of knowledge and practice regarding children’s work that the stakeholder groups felt it was most important to improve.
Child labour is a controversial topic worldwide and a major area of policy concern in Ethiopia. The international development community and donor agencies play a strong role in shaping policy and research agendas, including in Ethiopia. The main focus is on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, as defined by the ILO, and on tackling extreme forms of exploitation, such as child sex work and child trafficking. Ethiopia’s Labour Proclamation only applies to contractual labour, but many children engage in informal and unpaid work, including domestic work and work in the streets. The vast majority of working children in Ethiopia work in agriculture. It is widely assumed that work performed for the household is preferable and less prone to exploitation than work that is performed for pay outside the home.
However, there are many gaps in our knowledge. Existing evidence tends to rely on survey-based statistics and relatively little is known about children’s own perspectives on their working lives. A major area of policy and research interest is in the relationship between work and school. There is a wide range of ways that schools accommodate children’s work, and it is important to understand children’s experiences of trying to balance work and school, especially given the Government’s interest in moving from flexible, shift schooling towards full-time schooling. Key concerns for the Ethiopian Ministry of Education relate to high drop-out rates, particularly among boys who are leaving school early to go into paid employment, as well as strategies for increasing primary school completion and progression to secondary school.
Young Lives data show that the vast majority of children combine some form of work (paid or unpaid) with schooling. Against this background this research protocol was designed to generate timely and relevant information that can be used to inform policy discussions and to highlight the role of children’s perspectives as evidence within these processes.