05 October 2008

Child labor and school attendance

A previous article on child labor on this site presented a definition of child labor that considers both economic activity and household chores. The inclusion of household chores leads to a more precise measure of the burden of work on children. In particular, this new child labor indicator is less biased against girls, who typically spend more time on household chores and less time on economic activity than boys.

In the graph below, the proposed child labor indicator is used to evaluate the trade-off between child labor and school attendance among children aged 7 to 14 years in 35 developing countries. This age group was selected because in all 35 countries children are expected to enter primary school by age 7. The underlying data were collected with 26 Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and 9 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) between 1999 and 2005. 34 of the surveys are nationally representative and one, Palestinians in Syria, is a subnational sample. Surveys conducted during school vacation were excluded from the analysis. The results therefore show the trade-off between child labor and school attendance during a time of the year when children are supposed to be in school.

School attendance refers to attendance of any type of school and not only schools that are part of the formal system of education. In addition, children of secondary school age who are still in primary school are also counted as attending school for the purpose of the present analysis. In contrast, such overage children are counted as out of school when indicators like the secondary school net attendance rate (NAR) are calculated. In a further simplification, child labor is defined for all ages as at least one hour of economic activity or 28 or more hours of household chores per week.

Child labor and school attendance, children 7-14 years
Scatter plot with child labor and school attendance rates in 35 countries
Data source: Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), 1999-2005.

The scatter plot above demonstrates the trade-off between child labor and school attendance. Countries with low child labor rates typically have high school attendance rates and vice versa. A linear regression shows that a 10 point increase in child labor is associated with a 7.6 point decrease in school attendance at the national level.

On average across the 35 countries in the sample, 77 percent of 7- to 14-year-olds attended school at the time of they survey. In ten countries, at least 90 percent of children were in school. In seven countries - Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Somalia - less than half of all children went to school. Somalia has by far the lowest attendance rate with 19 percent.

25 percent of all children between 7 and 14 years were engaged in child labor, ranging from 4 percent among Palestinians in Syria to 78 percent in Niger and Sierra Leone. In six countries, more than half of all children in this age group were child laborers: Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.

Related articlesExternal links
Friedrich Huebler, 5 October 2008, Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2008/10/child-labor.html

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