Child Labour in Ghana

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Sudharshan Canagarajah Harold Coulombe

This paper is one of a series of background papers undertaken as part of a World Bank Economic and Sector Work (ESW) on Ghana: Labor Markets and Poverty. We acknowledge funding from Dutch and Canadian Trust funds. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors, and do not represent the views of the World Bank in any way.


Pages Abstract 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Introduction Data Child Labor and Schooling: Tabulation Results The Econometric Model Econometric Results Conclusions and Recommendations 1 2-4 4-6 6-12 12-14 14-28 28-29 30-32 33 34 35-37

REFERENCES Annex 1: Definition of Variables used in Probit Annex 2: Descriptive Statistics of Variables used in Probit Annex 3: Ancillary Estimations


This paper analyzes the determinants of child labor in conjunction with decision to school of Ghanaian children between the ages of 7 through 14 using national household surveys conducted between 1987-92. The paper briefly reviews some of the salient literature on child labor, especially those relevant to the phenomena in Africa, and presents tabular and multivariate analysis of the data. Unlike Asia, the majority of child labor in Africa, and especially in Ghana, is unpaid work and takes place in family agricultural enterprises. Of the 28 percent of children involved in child labor more than two-thirds were also simultaneously schooling. Of all the children between 7-14 years around 90 percent were involved in household chores. The paper does not address the issue of street kids which does not imply they are less important. The paper shows there are some clear gender based distinctions in the type of tasks performed by a girl and boy worker; girls do more household chores, while boys are in labor force. Our data does not convincingly show, as most literature claim, that poverty is the main culprit of child labor; however, poverty is significantly correlated with decision to school. Using bivariate probit models with varying specifications and variables the paper clearly shows that there is a significant negative relationship between going to school and working; increasing schooling demand is the effective way of reducing child labor and ensure that Ghana’ human capital is stabilized. The s high cost of schooling and the low quality and weak relevance of education has also pushed many children into work. Family characteristics have a big role to play in child’ decision to school or s work. Fathers’education has a significant negative effect on child labor; the effect is stronger for girls than boys. Given that child labor is least researched in Africa, this paper provides a comprehensive analysis of child labor in Ghana in the African context.




Child labor is a widespread and growing phenomena in the developing world. ILO (1996a) estimates put the prevalence of child labor as 250 million in the World, out of which 61 percent is in Asia, 32 percent in Africa and 7 percent in Latin America. The same source also indicates that 120 million children are full time workers and 80 percent of them are between 10-14 years of age. In terms of child labor force participation rates Africa ranks highest with 33 percent in East Africa, 24 percent in West Africa and 22 percent in middle Africa, followed by East Asia and South Asia with 20 and 14 percent respectively (see Figure 1 below). The above information indicates the intensity of child labor and the necessity to address it, in order to eliminate its adverse effects on human capital development and the future growth potential of developing countries.

Figure 1: Child Labor Force Participation Rates in the developing countries

Child Labor Force Participation Rates
35 30 Participation Rates 25 20 15 10 5 0 Middle Africa East Asia East Africa West Africa South Asia


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