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.