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ILO Surveys Quantify Child Labour in Ghana, India, Indonesia and Senegal


Press release | 04 April 1996


GENEVA (ILO News) - In selected areas of Ghana, India, Indonesia and Senegal, 25% of children under 15 are economically active and most hand over their earnings to their parents, according to survey results just published by the ILO Endnote1. The percentage of children working in Senegal reaches as high as 40% when seasonal work is taken into account.

These surveys were specifically designed by the ILO to gauge the extent of child labour. After an ILO investigation in more than 200 countries and territories revealed that commonly-used census and survey techniques did not normally capture the true extent of child labour, the ILO Bureau of Statistics developed new methodologies and these were tested for the first time in selected areas of Ghana, India and Indonesia in 1992-93. The Senegalese survey, conducted at the same time, covered almost the entire country.

The new methodologies measure schooling and non-schooling activities affecting the 5-14 age group, including children's and parents' demographic and age-group characteristics, occupations, skill levels, hours of work, working and living conditions and reasons for working. The surveys were carried out at household and enterprise level and, in Ghana, among street children.

The surveys found that girls are more likely to work than boys, although much of their work is unpaid household work. Work is rare among children under 10 but increases rapidly in the 10-14 age group and by far the largest group of working children is unpaid family workers. Rural children work more than urban children, with agricultural work being the main type of rural work and informal sector activity the main urban occupation.

A high proportion of child employees give their entire wages to their parents or other relatives they live with. Children's work is considered essential to maintaining the economic level of the household, either in the form of work for wages, of help in household enterprises or of household chores that free adult household members for economic activity elsewhere.

A majority of those children who work, do so nine hours per day or longer and many work six or seven days a week, including on public holidays, especially in the rural areas. In many instances girls work longer hours than boys. Up to two-thirds of employed children work extra hours without additional payment.

"Earnings of working children were found to be lower than those of adults in all four subject countries and many worked long hours and enjoyed limited benefits or none at all," the survey finds.

A few (around 5% in some cases) working children report being injured, ill or fatigued consequent to their working conditions or environment. A very high proportion of these injuries are due to work accidents.

Other main survey findings include:

In Ghana (Areas surveyed: Accra, the largest urban centre in the country; the Sene district and the Sissala district, which have almost exclusively rural populations):

• At least 11% of the children in the survey said they worked for pay in the 12 months prior to the survey, although this is considered to be an underestimation: at least a further 16% worked in an economic activity but were not paid in cash or kind.

• Slightly more than 80% of the working children were between 10 and 14 years of age.

• More than 75% of working children aged 10-14 were female.

• More than 70% were unpaid family workers, working in a family business.

• Of those children working for wages, between 80-90% were engaged in sales and service activities and a very small percentage in farming activities.

• All enterprises which employed young persons were privately owned, with the majority in the services sector.

• The average monthly earnings for three-fourths of child workers was less than 2,000 cedis (about $1.25), which is far below the national minimum wage of 12,000 cedis (about $7.70).

In Ghana a separate survey of street children was conducted. Main findings include:

• In Accra, almost 90% of street children were not attending school; almost 60% of these were boys.

• Among the school-goers, 75% were attending by shift, with a few older boys undergoing skills training.

• Many street children were school drop-outs, especially among the 10-14 age group, due in more than 80% of cases to financial problems and in 10% of cases to a lack of interest in schooling.

• A large majority are migrants and most of them have one or both parents living somewhere else.

In India (Areas surveyed: Two districts of the State of Gujarat - Surat, half urban and half rural, and Surendranagar, with a nearly two-thirds rural population):

• In the areas covered by the survey, one of every ten paid rural workers was a child. The proportion of children in the paid workforce is much lower in urban areas.

• Around 25% of the children worked in both urban and rural areas, taking into account primary and secondary activities.

• Child workers in rural areas were mainly unpaid family workers and causal labourers.

• In urban Surat, nearly one-third of children working were engaged in the formal sector.

• More girls undertook agricultural activities than boys.

• In urban Surat about one-third of child workers were engaged in sales and around one in 10 (mainly boys) worked in diamond polishing.

• In enterprises, children were paid less than the adult workers, with the differential being less in the case of children working in tea or snack stalls.

• Nearly 20% of the child employees of urban Surendranagar and 15% of those in rural and urban Surat reported that they were paid lower wages than the rate prevalent in those localities.

In Indonesia (Areas surveyed: Bandung Municipality, with an almost completely urban population, and Bandung Regency, with a largely rural population):

• The survey found that most working children were unpaid family workers (75% in Bandung Municipality and more than 80% in Bandung Regency).

• In Bandung Municipality nearly 60% of working children age 10-14 were in the services sector and 15% each in manufacturing and trade.

• In Bandung Regency 50% of the children age 10-14 were in the agriculture sector, 25% in manufacturing and nearly 15% in trade.

• 80% of working children in the Municipality worked in the informal sector and nearly 95% in the Regency.

• In both rural and urban Bandung, the percentage of girls was higher than that of boys in both manufacturing (50% versus 15%) and services (nearly twice as many girls as boys).

• In urban Bandung children working in manufacturing are mostly in textile, shoe, food and garment production.

• In enterprises, children's income was found to be only three-quarters that of their elders, except in the trade sector.

• The average salary per day was less than 2,000 rupiahs (about $0.86) in the small cottage/household establishments and 2,100 (about $0.90) in the larger-scale establishments.

• In the trade sector girls' salaries are less than half those of boys.

In Senegal (Areas surveyed: main urban and rural areas in all ten administrative regions except for Ziguinchor and Kolda, which could not be surveyed because of political disturbances):

• According to the survey which was carried out nearly nationwide, up to 40% of all children participated in economic activity at some point during the year.

• As most children are family workers and as two-thirds of the economically-active population of Senegal are farmers, the largest proportion of child workers is in the agriculture sector: during the reference year three out of four children worked in farming activities at some point. Slightly less than 20% were family workers, less than 10% were paid domestics and half as many were herders.

• More than 90% of girls worked in agriculture or as a domestic and 75% of boys were farm workers.

• Nearly 80% of all economically active children were unpaid family workers, while just under 10% were salaried, 6% were apprentices and 5% were self-employed.

• Among the economically-active boys, 10% were apprentices, while only one in 200 among such girls was an apprentice.

• Failure at school was given as one of the main reasons which pushed children to become apprentices.

• In the informal sector a large number of children were exposed to dangers. For example, some children spend the night in workshops or cars, while others handle potentially dangerous materials, without adult supervision.

• Just over half of the working children surveyed reported some kind of income, which varied depending on age, sex and occupation.

• The average monthly income for all these children was around 4,700 FCFA (about $9.25); it averaged 6,700 FCFA (about $13.25) for boys, 4,500 FCFA (about $8.90) for girls and only 2,000 FCFA (about $4.00) for all children in the 6-9 age group.

• Once the heavy agricultural work is completed, and even before the harvest, young girls go to urban centres to look for positions as domestics. Housemaids receive between 5,000 FCFA per month (about $10) for younger girls and 10,000 FCFA (about $20) for older girls.

• Children were more likely to work if the father is permanently absent, but less likely than the average to work if both parents are alive but separated.


Child Labour Surveys, Results of methodological experiments in four countries 1992-93, ISBN 92-2-110106-1. International Labour Office, Geneva, 1996.