National Child Labour Survey

Malawi: 2015 National child labour survey report

The 2015 National Child Labour Survey (NCLS) was a nationwide survey designed to collect data on demographic and socio-economic characteristics of working children aged 5-17 years. It is a second national child labour survey conducted in the country. The first survey was conducted in 2002.

The 2015 National Child Labour Survey (NCLS) was conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in collaboration with Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development (MoLYMD) and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD), with the technical assistance of ILO/FUNDAMENTALS.

The 2015 NCLS was designed to measure and monitor indicators on children’s work. It is intended to provide a basis for increasing public awareness of the problem, promoting the campaign against its practice, supporting the development of regulatory frameworks, policies, and formulation of appropriate intervention programmes.

The 2015 NCLS data collection was conducted from 27th September to 16th December, 2015. The questionnaires contained questions on the general labour force and working children. While the target population for child labour analysis cover all children in the age bracket from 5 to 17 years-old, the findings in this report are limited to children in urban and rural households. The 2015 NCLS interviewed 10,887 household-based children who were involved in economic and non- economic activities as well as non-working children.

Main findings

The 2015 NCLS revealed that there were about 5.6 million children aged 5 to 17 years, 2,788,336 were females and 2,785,669 were males. About 4.9 million (88%) of these children were attending school at the date of the survey, 7% were no longer in school whilst the rest had never attended school (5%). Notably, current school attendance was almost the same (88%) between male and female children. Across regions, the northern region had the highest percentage of children in school (90%) followed by the southern region (88%) and the central region (87%).

By age-group, 88% of total children age 5 to 9 years, 93% among total children age 10 to 13 years and 81% among children 14 to 17 years were attending school. In general, the percentage of working children attending school decreases as children graduate to older ages (from 93% among children 10 to 13 years to 85% among children 14 to 17 years).

Regarding working children 47% of children aged 5 to 17 years were reportedly to be involved in economic activities in the last seven days prior to the survey while 52% (2.9 million) of the children were working in the last 12 months. Children aged 14 to 17 years are more likely to be working (68.5%) than their counterparts aged 5 to 9 years and 14 to 17 years (30.2% and 68.5%, respectively). In general terms, both male and female children have similar patterns of involvement in economic activities (49.6% for males vs. 46.6% for females). Involvement in economic activities is higher in rural areas compared to urban settings (49.7% vs. 38.3%). Both male and female children in rural areas are also more likely to be working than male and female children in urban areas. With regard to household chores, almost nine in every ten children (87%) were involved in household tasks.

Distribution of working children aged 5-17 years in Malawi


The 2015 NCLS indicate that 38% of children aged 5-17 years are involved in prohibited work, technically known as child labour. Child labour is more prevalent in southern region (43.5%) than central and northern region (33%). Male children, children aged 10-13 years and children living in rural areas were more likely to be involved in child labour than their counterparts. Notably, there has been less children in child labour among those aged 14-17 years (29%) compared to other children. Among working children, almost eight in every ten (79%)are in child labour. Step-son/daughters, children that were not related to household head or were live-in servants were more likely to be in child labour. Among children in child labour, 60% were in hazardous work.

The 2015 NCLS results further indicate that 72% of children aged 5 to 17 worked in the agriculture sector, 23% of children (5-17) that reportedly work were involved in domestic work, and 3% were working in wholesale and retail industry. In urban areas, less than half (46%) of the children age 5 to 17 years work in agriculture, forestry and fi shing industry, 11% are in wholesale and retail trade, 39% are in domestic work at their household or another household and 4% work in other industries. In contrast, 75% of children in rural areas work in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, 2% in wholesale and retail industry, 21% in domestic work with the rest in other industries.

The results also indicate that out of the working children 8% were no longer in school and 5% have never attended school. For non-working children, the results show that 3% of the children were no longer in school whilst 10% have never attended school. The proportion of working children reportedly no longer in school was noted to be higher among females (9%) than males (7%).