The majority of children in sub-Saharan Africa are engaged in some form of work, whether paid or unpaid. In Ethiopia, evidence from Young Lives shows that 90 per cent of 8 year olds undertook some form of work. Understanding how work affects children’s development and well-being, including their schooling, is critical for designing more effective child protection policies. We examine how work impacts on children’s opportunities to learn, physical health and subjective well-being.
- Children face competing pressures on their time from working and attending school. Working may be essential to pay for school related costs but repeated absence often leads to children dropping out.
- Work can have both positive and negative impacts on children’s well-being and children take pride in being able to contribute to their families’ livelihoods.
- Poverty, shocks and adverse events, such as illness or death of caregivers, are common causes of child work.
- Promoting children’s well-being and development requires an integrated approach which addresses the broader social and economic context. Key is child-sensitive social protection, which targets the age- and gender-specific risks and vulnerabilities of children and avoids adverse impacts.
This Brief draws on research presented at an East African Regional Symposium on Child Work/Child Labour hosted by Young Lives and Save the Children, with the support of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), in Addis Ababa. The symposium was funded by the Oak Foundation and opened by the Chair of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. It brought together researchers, policymakers and practitioners from across Africa to share findings on children’s work and to stimulate regional action towards the development of better policies and practices for child protection.