Interventions on child labour in South Asia

Question

What are the key interventions on child labour and what organisations are carrying them out? Have rigorous research and/or impact evaluations been carried out?

Summary

The three principal international conventions on child labour (Minimum Age to Employment Convention, 1973 (No. 138), Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, together set the legal parameters for child labour and provide the legal foundations for national and international action against it. Whilst advocacy efforts are the predominant type of intervention, it is difficult to attribute the successes in ratifying conventions and implementing legislative policies and powers to any one organisation or campaign. Notwithstanding, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) continues to lead in this area due to their global presence, funding and partnerships internationally, regionally and nationally. A number of other actors including a number of regional level strategic policy and technical alliances also engage in programmatic support and technical assistance addressing child labour. Impact evaluations on child labour programmes tend to suffer from two main limitations:

1. Seldom is child labour the main outcome of interest of impact evaluations and;

2. Social protection programmes and their constituent interventions are not necessarily selected according to a consistent knowledge generating strategy.

Despite these challenges, integrated approaches such as conditional cash transfers combined with supply side interventions such as the provision of education and healthcare services have demonstrated the most success according to the studies examined for this report. Effective and well-targeted responses to child labour demand a strong body of knowledge on the issue, including an understanding of the number of child labourers, which employment sectors and geographical areas they work in, the demographic characteristics of the children involved, and the type of work that they carry out. Despite recent national household surveys in most South Asian countries (with Afghanistan as an important exception), data quality and comparability are uneven and significant information gaps remain, affecting the true understanding of the dynamics of child labour and the ability of policy-makers to address it. There is a general need therefore, for mainstream systems for the collection, analysis and dissemination of child labour statistics, as well as more targeted research aimed at filling specific knowledge gaps.

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Suggested citation

Boateng, P. (2017) Interventions on Child Labour in South Asia. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.