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Child labour

Child labour

The latest ILO estimates indicate that 152 million children around the world engage in harmful and exploitative work, signalling the need for urgent action to eliminate child labour by 2025 (SDG 8.7). To help achieve this goal, the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti conducts research to identify effective policies to eliminate child labour and improve education outcomes.

Our research follows the guiding framework provided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects children from harmful work. Based on ILO Conventions, we recognise various forms of child work, including non-hazardous work, child labour, as well as worst forms of child labour.  

Child labour and Education in India and Bangladesh

This project studies the relationship between child labour and education outcomes and assesses the effectiveness of educational strategies in reducing child labour. With a focus on India and Bangladesh, the project is funded with UK aid from the UK Government, as part of the broader FCDO Asia Regional Child Labour Programme. 

Child Labour and Social Protection in Africa

This project studies whether national cash transfer programmes primarily aimed at poverty reduction can help reduce child labour. Under a Cooperative Agreement with funding from the United States Department of Labor (USDoL) (see disclaimer here), we generate mixed-method evidence from Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.

Publications

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?
Evidence on educational strategies to address child labour in India and Bangladesh
Event

Evidence on educational strategies to address child labour in India and Bangladesh

The workshop's objective is to establish current evidence and inform future direction for research on educational strategies to address child labour in India and Bangladesh. Bringing together 24 experts on the topics of child labour and education, as well as donors (DFID) and programme partners (ILO, UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, IDS, UNICEF country offices), the workshop represents the main inception activity for the DFID-funded research project “Supporting DFID’s Asia Regional Child Labour Programme: Evidence on Educational Strategies to Address Child Labour in South Asia". The project is carried out by UNICEF Innocenti, as part of the broader DFID “Asia Regional Child Labour Programme”.
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

Ramya Subrahmanian

UNICEF Innocenti

Valeria Groppo

UNICEF Innocenti

Josiah Kaplan

UNICEF Innocenti

A K Shiva Kumar

UNICEF Innocenti

Roselyn Sekai Kapungu

UNICEF Innocenti

Anna Zongollowicz

UNICEF Innocenti

Partners

Videos

Related

Innocenti Project(s) 2016-2021:

Cash Plus

Child labour and education in India and Bangladesh

Child labour and social protection in Africa

Social protection and cash transfers

PROJECTS ARCHIVE

Blogs

Why Child Labour Cannnot Be Forgotten During Covid 19

Ending Child Labour in South Asia Through Access to Quality Education

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 labour: current knowledge, gaps, and implications for program design

Power Point presentation

Child Labour & Social Programming | Focus on Educational Strategies

Child Work in the Karamoja ECD Cash or Food Transfer Programme

Cash transfers and child work in Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania

Cash transfers, productive investments and child work

Background papers

Evidence on Educational Strategies to Address Child Labour in India and Bangladesh: Scoping Paper Summaries

Policy reports

Malawi Social Cash Transfer Programme Endline Impact Evaluation Report

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

External website

Understanding child work project