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Child Labor in Africa

By TIFFANIA Nov 12, 2008 1472 Words
Child Labor in Africa

A recent study done by the ILO (International Labour Organization) estimated that 217.7 million children ages 5 to 17 are engaged in child labor all over the world. Of these, 126.3 million are caught in the worst forms of child labor (More than…1). What exactly is ‘child labor’? Child labor (or child labour) is the employment of children under an age determined by law or custom. This practice is considered exploitative by many countries and international organizations, “Poor children and their families may rely upon child labor in order to improve their chances of attaining basic necessities” (Causes...1). Child labor in Africa is a horrific problem it is abusive, prevents children from gaining an education which leads to poverty, and is started too young. Sharon LaFRANIERE explains what she saw first hand while visiting in Africa.

“He last ate the day before. His broken wooden paddle was so heavy he could
barely lift it. But he raptly followed each command from Kwadwo Takyi, the
powerfully built 31-year-old in the back of the canoe who freely deals out beatings…Until their servitude ends in three or four years, they are as trapped as the fish in their nets, forced to work up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, in a trade that even adult fishermen here call punishing and, at times, dangerous” (LaFRANIERE 4). When the children do something wrong they are punished severely. They will often times get beat or even have nothing to eat for a period of time ranging from a day to a week. LaFRANIERE reports on an incident that happened last year, she expounded by saying, “Nigerian police stumbled upon 64 girls aged 14 and younger, packed inside a refrigerated truck built to haul frozen fish. They had traveled hundreds of miles from central Nigeria, the police said, and were destined for work as housemaids in Lagos” (LaFRANIERE 4). This just goes to show how careless and cheap the employers really are.

Education plays a very important role in child labor. Many parents and children decide to send out their kids to work in order for them to earn money for an education. This choice is often times a foolish option. There are many times when the subordinate will promise an education to the child laborer but they will never be received. A recent study done by the ILO tells why child labor has risen and school enrollment rates have gone down so drastically, “The incidence of child labor in the country has risen partly because of the deterioration of the school system, itself a result of economic decline. Poor infrastructure, low teacher morale and the introduction of school fees under the country's structural adjustment programme have contributed to higher drop-out and truancy rates” (Harsch 2). This is the reason child labor has risen and it is very unacceptable.

When children do not go to school but instead go to work right away it leads to a new generation of poverty. This quote from the article Child Labor rooted in Africa’s poverty is very accurate: “It is no coincidence that Africa also is the poorest region, with the weakest school systems. And among African children, those from poorer families are far more likely to seek work” (Harsch 2). This hits right on because they all have to go support their families and do not have time for school. Poverty plays a very large role in Africa’s society today. The article “Causes of Child Labor” explains just how much poverty effects civilization. “The effects of poverty in developing countries are often worsened by the large interest payments on development loans. The structural adjustments associated with these loans often require governments to cut education, health, and other public programs, further harming children and increasing pressure on them to become child laborers” (Causes…3).

There are many cases when the child goes to work and he/she usually does not have time or the budget for an education. Child labor is not the answer to their problems! Many of the problems they face on a daily basis could be a lot easier if only they went to school and gained an education. When they decide not to go to school but to work instead they are just providing for a worse future full of poverty. Education is the key to success.

Child labor starts at a very young age. The youngest child laborer reported was 4 years old! That is a very young age to start doing such vigorous labor. There are a few countries in Africa that have some national laws but they often include exemptions. Such as in Nepal there is a minimum age of 14 for most work but plantations and brick kilns are exempt. Kenya prohibits children under 16 from industrial work but excludes agriculture. Also Bangladesh specifies a minimum age for work but sets no regulations on domestic work or agricultural (Causes…2). Where these exemptions are is where the child labor slips in. Low pay and more money in the bosses’ pockets is a very large reason for these exemptions. Since there are no age limits for many of the brutal jobs the children end up having to do those jobs.

Many of the children at work don’t even understand why they are there and not with their mom and dad. One day they are at home roaming the streets with some other kids and their families and the next day they are being worked as hard as they can be. Many times they would get beat for doing something wrong but they are so young they often times don’t understand why.

When kids are put to work at such a young age they do not have time to be children. As they are put to work first thing they learn they can’t just complain and procrastinate like other kids. All they know is work. They often times don’t know leisure or even time off since they usually live with their employers. The children can’t even go home at the end of the day to their parents and families to relax. They have to stay with their employer and aren’t always guaranteed food or sleep there.

In conclusion child labor in Africa is a horrific problem it is abusive, prevents children from gaining an education which leads to poverty, and is started too young. As Mr. Somavia, from the ILO, says:

"Although the numbers are large, they are not so large as to make abolishing forced labor impossible", "Thus, the ILO calls for a global alliance against forced labor involving governments, employers' and workers' organizations, development agencies and international financial institutions concerned with poverty reduction, and civil society including research and academic institutions. With political will and global commitment over the next decade, we believe forced labor can be relegated to history” (More than…2). Now let’s take a stand and continue to inform people what is really happening in the world today.


Andvig, Jens. Sudharshan Canagarajah. Anne Kielland. “Child Labor in Africa: Issues and Challenges.” Human Development. Nov. 2001. World Bank. 5 Feb. 2008 <>. Bass, Lorretta E. “Child Labor in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004. “Causes of Child Labor.” The Child Labor Education Project. 20 Feb. 2008

<>. Child Labor in Africa. Professional Website. 5 Feb. 2008
<>. Harsch, Ernest. “Child Labor rooted in Africa’s poverty.” Oct. 2001. Africa Recovery.
20 Feb. 2008.
<>. Haylard, Helen. World Socialist Website. Professional Website. 7 Feb. 1998. Copyright
1998-2007. 5 Feb. 2008 <>. Harkin, Tom. “U.S. Legislative Initiatives to Stop Abusive Child Labor.” Professional
Website. 5 Feb. 2008 <>. LaFRANIERE, Sharon. “Africa’s World of Forced Labor, in a 6-Year-Old’s Eye’s.”
Africa. 29 Oct. 2006. New York Times. 4 Feb. 2008 <>. “More than 12 million are trapped in forced labor world wide. ILO releases major new
study on forced labor.” International Labor Organization. World Hunger Notes.
20 Feb. 2008
<>. Winkel, Rich. “Child Slave Trade in Africa Highlighted by Arrests.” New York Times. 10 Aug. 1997. 4 Feb. 2008 <>. Wines, Michael. “Africa Adds to Miserable Ranks of Child Workers.” Africa. 24 Aug. 2006. New York Times. 5 Feb. 2008 <>.

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