Child domestic work

Question

1. What different approaches exist to defining child labour in domestic work?
2. What data is available on the numbers of children and households involved in domestic child labour?
3. How does the prevalence of domestic child labour differ across countries?
4. What data collection methods have been used and what are the data limitations?

Summary

The definition of Child Domestic Work (CDW) is contested. Whilst international law defines children as any person under the age of 18 years old, in some countries, the national minimum age to work can be as low as 14 years old. Furthermore, socio-cultural patterns and national level policies add an additional dimension to how CDW is viewed, measured and reported. Despite these variations, as an overview, child domestic work is a general reference to children’s work in the domestic work sector in the home of a third-party or employer. The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) and UNICEF conventions provide the main framework for definitions.

The ILO dominates the evidence base for research on child domestic workers with some research undertaken by interagency cooperation efforts such as UCW (which comprises of the ILO, UNICEF and the World Bank). For example, the definitions and approaches found in various papers and studies not undertaken by the ILO largely use the ILO’s definitions and its related conventions as a framework for their respective studies, and the most recent literature and statistics around child domestic labour are all ILO reports. Only the most recent reports and data will be referred to in this helpdesk report unless a significant trend was noted between data sets.

The phenomenon of Child Labour in Domestic Work is often hidden and difficult to tackle because of its links to social and cultural patterns within its respective contexts. For this reason, there is a dearth of data with accurate measures of the extent of CDW regionally. This is particularly the case in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, who both have high concentrations of child domestic workers but figures presented are only estimates which some authors contest are inaccurate. In many countries, child domestic work is not only socially and culturally acceptable, but at times viewed in a positive light as a protected and non-stigmatised type of work and preferred to others forms of employment – particularly for girls.

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Suggested citation

Boateng, P., and West, H., (2017). Child Domestic Work. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.