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Child labour and social protection in Africa

Child labour and social protection in Africa

Poverty is often a key driver of child labour. With funding from the United States Department of Labor (USDoL) (see disclaimer here), we explore how national social protection programmes aimed at reducing poverty, including cash transfers, affect child labour. The research is carried out under the umbrella of the Transfer Project – an initiative of UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Using a mixed-method approach including randomised control trials (RCTs) and qualitative analysis, we studied the impacts of three national cash transfer programmes in Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania.

Our findings provide a complex picture. In the very poor settings we considered, cash transfers were partly invested in the household farm. Adults and children increased their participation in the expanded agricultural and livestock activities. In some cases, aspects of this work on the household farm could be considered detrimental for the children involved. At the same time, child work for pay outside the home tended to decline and school attendance consistently improved in all three countries.

The findings underline the need to monitor unintended impacts of social protection programmes, as well as intended impacts. Our findings are influencing policies on the ground, with complementary interventions being considered in combination with cash transfers. These can enhance the positive impacts of cash and reduce potentially adverse impacts.

Publications

How Do Cash Transfers Affect Child Work and Schooling? Surprising evidence from Malawi, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia
Publication

How Do Cash Transfers Affect Child Work and Schooling? Surprising evidence from Malawi, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia

Impact of the United Republic of Tanzania’s Productive Social Safety Net on Child Labour and Education
Publication

Impact of the United Republic of Tanzania’s Productive Social Safety Net on Child Labour and Education

Cash Transfers, Public Works and Child Activities: Mixed Methods Evidence from the United Republic of Tanzania
Publication

Cash Transfers, Public Works and Child Activities: Mixed Methods Evidence from the United Republic of Tanzania

This paper examines the impact of the United Republic of Tanzania’s Productive Social Safety Net (PSSN) on child work and education.
The Importance of Understanding and Monitoring the Effects of Cash Transfer Programmes on Child Labour and Education: Findings from Malawi. A Policy Brief
Publication

The Importance of Understanding and Monitoring the Effects of Cash Transfer Programmes on Child Labour and Education: Findings from Malawi. A Policy Brief

The Impact of Zambia’s Unconditional Child Grant on Schooling and Work: Results from a large-scale social experiment
Publication

The Impact of Zambia’s Unconditional Child Grant on Schooling and Work: Results from a large-scale social experiment

This paper reports the impact on child schooling and work of the Government of Zambia’s Child Grant Programme (CGP), an unconditional cash transfer programme targeted to households with children aged under 3 years in three districts of the country. The impacts reported here lead to the conclusion that unconditional cash transfers in Africa have significant positive impacts on children’s human capital.

News & Commentary

Eliminating child labour – greater engagement and collaboration needed
Article

Eliminating child labour – greater engagement and collaboration needed

By Anna Zongollowicz An estimated 160 million children are engaged in child labour globally. Bringing together more than 4,000 representatives from all sectors of global society including governments, trade unions, the private sector, civil society, regional and international organizations, think-tanks and academia, the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour, coordinated by the United Nations, was held 15-20 May 2022 in Durban, South Africa. Youth and children were represented from across the globe at the Conference, with presentations and discussions ending with a call to action to urgently improve intersectoral and multi-institutional collaboration to end child labour. It was widely recognised that because child labour is a highly complex and multidimensional issue, it cannot be effectively addressed without integrated approaches. Two conference events highlighted promising paths towards the desired goal. UNICEF at the ConferenceSide Event 6 featured Dr Ramya Subrahmanian, Chief of Child Rights and Protection at UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, who presented emerging insights from UNICEF Innocenti's FCDO-funded research project - part of a cross-institutional collaboration in South Asia that involves the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Institute for Development Studies at Sussex University (IDS) and the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA). The project aims to identify effective educational strategies to reduce child labour in India and Bangladesh (home to 10.7 million child labourers). Insights from the first phase of research reflect the complexity of the issue and the need for understanding how educational interventions have different impacts on child labour depending on their specific design features and the context in which they are implemented. Dr Subrahmanian emphasized that increasing the number of rigorous evaluation studies that identify the pathways and mechanisms through which education can reduce child labour needs to be a priority to strengthen the education sector's contribution to ending child labour.Side Event 20 featured an eminent panel including the CEO of the Centre for Child Rights and Business, the VP of Human Rights at L'Oreal, the Head of the International Labour Affairs division at the Labour Directorate of Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and UNICEF Representatives. It was organized by the Government of Switzerland and moderated by UNICEF Innocenti's Dr Subrahmanian. The panel discussed the role of the private sector in helping tackle the systemic causes of child labour. As child labour is the result of a broad range of factors (including socio-cultural, economic, legal and political), the business sector needs to act on a range of different fronts to address the issue, including social and child protection. Private sector involvementTraditionally, the private sector has focused on mitigating child labour through the application of due diligence mechanisms, such as codes of conduct and audits. These mechanisms however, have not been sufficient at preventing child labour, which usually occurs throughout the supply chain and which is often made up of a range of loosely connected entities, some or many of which may operate in the informal sector. Remediation is also rare. Currently, only 33 companies worldwide have a remedy system for rescued child labourers.The private sector can and must do more to prevent and mitigate child labour; from creating decent work for adults to providing more skills development opportunities to teenagers transitioning from secondary education into adulthood, and through providing employment insurance and income stability. In expanding their response, companies should look for multi-stakeholder solutions that are integrated with national systems, such as child labour monitoring or national child protection mechanisms, which make due diligence meaningful. Private-public partnerships are crucial for implementing proven solutions at scale. Neither the private nor public sectors should or can go it alone. Take legislation as an example: governments can pass laws and support voluntary measures for companies to perform due diligence, integrate their data systems with public ones that disclose their information, but companies will only apply these approaches correctly if they are fully committed to eliminating child labour throughout their value chains. Companies demonstrating such commitment and engaging in such partnerships will achieve sustainable benefits not only for themselves, but also for the whole economy, through increased wages and widely shared social and economic development. Finally, children's agency is a vital component in the fight against child labour. Children have an extraordinary capacity to produce complex analysis of their own situations. However, whilst it is important to be child-centred in research and action, Dr Subrahmanian pointed out the importance of recognising that children are often unable to resist exploitation, given power asymmetries with adults who may persuade or coerce them to work. Acknowledging children's rights requires collective action to ensure they are not placed in situations where they are compelled to bear the costs of early engagement with the world of work and labour.   For further information on UNICEF Innocenti’s work on child labour, click here. About the UNICEF Office of Research - InnocentiThe Office of Research - Innocenti is UNICEF's dedicated research centre. It undertakes research on emerging or current issues to inform the strategic directions, policies and programmes of UNICEF and its partners, shape global debates on child rights and development, and inform the global research and policy agenda for all children, and particularly for the most vulnerable. Visit our website and follow UNICEF Innocenti on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.  

Events

COVID-19 and Child Labour
Event

COVID-19 and Child Labour

As progress on child labour has stalled and absolute numbers of children engaged in child labour increase, Leading Minds Online asks the experts: How can we get progress back on track and prevent this worst-case scenario?
USAID Counter-Trafficking in Persons Evidence Summit
Event

USAID Counter-Trafficking in Persons Evidence Summit

UNICEF Innocenti's Jacobus de Hoop presented work on "Child Transfers, Child Work & Schooling" at USAID's Counter-Trafficking in Persons Evidence Summit. More than 85 researchers, experts, and practitioners gathered to share information about anti-trafficking data and efforts and discuss applications for field programming and policy.

Project countries

Project team

Valeria Groppo

UNICEF Innocenti

Partners

Related

Innocenti Project(s) 2016-2021:

Cash Plus

Child labour

Child labour and education in India and Bangladesh

Social protection and cash transfers

PROJECTS ARCHIVE

Blogs

Why child labour cannot be forgotten during Covid -19

Journal articles

Cash Transfers, Microentrepreneurial Activity, and Child Work: Evidence from Malawi and Zambia

The role of productive activities in the lives of adolescents: Photovoice evidence from Malawi

Effects of public policy on child labor: current knowledge, gaps, and implications for program design

The impact of Zambia’s unconditional child grant on schooling and work: results from a large-scale social experiment

Power Point presentation

Cash Transfers and Child Work in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia

Cash Transfers, Productive Investment and Child Work

What's new

A new study reviews the impacts of child labour policies

Policy reports

Malawi Social Cash Transfer Programme Endline Impact Evaluation Report

Tanzania's productive social safety net programme (PSSN) and its impacts on youth

Briefs

How Do Cash Transfers Affect Child Work and Schooling? Surprising evidence from Malawi, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia

Impact of the United Republic of Tanzania’s Productive Social Safety Net on Child Labour and Education

The Importance of Understanding and Monitoring the Effects of Cash Transfer Programmes on Child Labour and Education: Findings from Malawi. A Policy Brief

External website

Understanding Child Work (UCW) project website