Implications of Poverty on Child Work in Rural Ethiopia

Course ID
Ethiopian Economics Association (EEA)
Assefa Admassie

Children have always been part of the economic life of societies. At the moment, child labour (child work in its soft form) is a widespread problem particularly in developing countries despite legislations prohibiting the participation of children in harmful work practices. Children in many developing countries contribute to household income either in cash or in kind either by working in the labour market or directly contributing to the labour demand of households. All over the world children continue to work, putting at stake their education, their health, their normal development to adult hood, and even their lives. Millions of them work under hazardous conditions, which present dangers to their health, safety and welfare. They toil in mines and quarries, are exposed to agrochemicals in agriculture, squat in crippling positions to weave rugs and carpets and scavenge in rubbish collection centers. Many more are enslaved in bonded labour, isolated in domestic service, and traumatized and abused in the commercial sex trade.
The problem of child labour is closely associated with poverty and technological backwardness. Household poverty, which is manifested in terms of low or declining income, has often been singled out as the most important reason why under aged children are pushed into the labour market. Finding an appropriate and direct measure of household income is often difficult with respect to rural economies where households rely less on the market for consumption and production decisions. Thus, it is better to use household physical assets, such as land and livestock as proxy measures to examine the effect of household income on child time allocation decisions within the context of subsistence rural economies.
In the case of rural subsistence economies the link between poverty and asset ownership is particularly very strong since greater asset ownership means more wealth. Physical assets empower the poor by increasing their incomes; serve as reserves against shocks; and provide choices to escape from harsh or exploitative conditions. Some studies on poverty argue that the main cause of poverty in developing countries is lack of access to productive assets and hence increased access to productive assets by poor households is the best means of reducing poverty Theoretically, ownership of productive assets should decrease children’s probability of working and increase their probability of school attendance. But, if households lack productive assets, they would survive a sudden drop in income by borrowing on the human capital market, meaning let children work instead of attending school. So, interventions to reduce rural poverty would have broader implications on child work and development since households’ increased access to asset is now considered as one strategy for reducing poverty. The main question now what implications would asset ownership has on child work and can child work be harmful, harmful in the sense that it affects investment in human capital formation particularly investment in schooling. If work displaces school attendance then it becomes harmful. Child labour jeopardises children’s possibilities of becoming productive adults in the future. Having a child to labour will have immense impact on the child’s physical and intellectual development. It is an extremely expensive phenomenon both for the child and for the society in general. Although it is generally agreed that the complete abolition of child labour will take a long time, there is a need to ensure that a start is made towards abolition of this problem and diagnosis of the problem is the first step in this direction. Any intervention policy on child labour should be based on a careful analysis and research rather than just emotion and impulse. While the incidence of child labour may vary greatly from country to country and even possibly within countries it is, however, clear that the number of working children in Ethiopia is so high that it deserves to be a matter of priority concern in Ethiopia

Corporate Author: Ethiopian Economic Association/Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute
Publisher: Ethiopian Economic Association (EEA)
Primary Descriptors: Child labor

Secondary Descriptor: Poor children

Geographic Descriptors: , Rural
Cataloge Date: 02/27/2013
Broad Subject heading: Poverty
Call Number: 330.963 PRO 2004
Serial Key Title: Proceedings of the First International Conference on the Ethiopian Economy
Publication catagory: International Conference
Content type: EEA Publication
Volume: III
Publication date: 2013-05-27 23:04:00
Forum or Discussion date: 2013-02-27 14:55:41
Place of publication: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Type of material: Book
Current frequency: Annualy
Author: Assefa Admassie

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