The Journal of Law, Social Justice and Global Development, June 2018 (21), pp. 33-48.
Care and domestic work have gained attention in the global policy discourse, particularly following feminist research and activism showing its burden for women. However, these debates and political demands have generally overlooked children’s contribution to social reproduction within and beyond the household. Empirical evidence shows that many children assume care and domestic responsibilities from an early age, with an increasingly gendered pattern as they grow. While such work can provide a learning opportunity, the time, energy and emotional labour put into it can be detrimental to their wellbeing. In this article, we review the empirical evidence on children’s care and domestic work in developing countries, and argue that understanding children’s roles in these tasks can complement the existing social reproduction scholarship, uncovering the intra-household and intergenerational distribution of care and domestic responsibilities, its determinants and effects on child wellbeing. We conclude by noting key conceptual and evidence gaps, and suggesting future research directions.