Ugal David B. Ph.D Department of Sociology Faculty of the Social Sciences University of Ibadan Ibadan – Nigeria Telephone: +2348057792492 Email:

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ABSTRACT Child labour manifested in several shades have destroyed and distort the hope and the future of society by making the future leaders today’s adults through taking part in roles and activities for adults. This reduces the output per person as consequence and has retard National Development. The crucial point is the legislation with stringent measures not only to discourage child labour but to completely exterminate the obnoxious practice that is gradually destroying our future. There is also an urgent need for the domestication of the right of the child in order to discourage the engagement of children in activities that debase their personhood and undermine their future. Introduction The print and electronic media is aghast with News on the engagement of children in labour and or work. These media posits that the world population especially in the developing countries of Asia and Africa is made up of children (between ages 5-15) and about 60% of these children are engaged in one form of labour or another. For them, children should not have to work but the international labour organization (ILO) estimates the number of working children aged between 5 and 14 years to be about 250 million in the developing countries, of whom at least 120 million are working full-time of these, 61 percent are in Asia, 32 percent in Africa and 7 percent in Latin America. Relatively, fewer children work in developed countries (ILO 1995). International organizations like the ILO, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO see child labour as a serious global issue, it is the contention of these organizations that the engagement of children in labour is harmful in several ways to the children, the family and the society. It is their belief that it impairs the physical and mental development of children. It affects the family image and rubs society of her future leaders and labour force.


It is this conception that the act of child labour is viewed as a deviation from the rule even though it is assuming epidemic dimensions. International and local organizations have cried out against the scourge as an evil act. Legislations have been put in place to discourage child labour and organizations have spring up to pursue the legislation to the letter. It is the position of these efforts that no single institution acting alone can solve the problem, given the massive resources required, partnerships are therefore essential and that working together, a global effort to eliminate child labour is feasible and would be a major contribution to world development (IBRD 1998). Since countries of the world have established a minimum working age and regulates the working conditions of young persons, in line with the UN convention on the Rights of the child (1989), any deviation from the rule makes the situation criminal and anti-development. The ILO of 1919 convention No. 5 prohibited the work of persons below the age of 14 in industrial establishments. Nine sectoral conventions on the minimum working age were subsequently adopted until the minimum age convention No. 138 (1973) came into force in 1976 along with the complying Recommendations no. 146. Today 90 countries are bound by the provisions of one or more of these conventions. A further 51 countries ratified this convention and others are at various stages of completing it. Since Nigeria is a member of this organization, an action to the contrary of these conventions is viewed as a deviation and a break of an international law. An effort of the “wotclef” led by the vice president’s wife is an effort towards putting to an end child labour work in Nigeria. This paper therefore intends to study the concept of child labour looking at it from its historical frameworks, causes and consequences on the individual, the family and the society at large. The paper will also attempt to proffer solutions to the condition.


Conceptual Definition The concept under discussion does not align to an easy definition. This is because the person considered to be a child in one context may not be a child in another while labour in one may not be so in another. Basu (1998) stated that the definitional problem stems from two extremes, at one, all non educational noon-leisure time of individuals below a certain age can be counted as child labour. At the other only full-time employment in economic activity would be counted. The former includes light work after school work during school holidays, which helps in skill acquisition while; the latter excludes part-time engagement in such horrendous activities as child prostitution. Another part of the problem arises from the conception of most people of child labour to mean “bad” child labour such as prostitution or scavenging or backbreaking work on a construction site or long hours in a carpet factory etc. such bad child labour can be part-time or full time and a child can both engage in schooling and in ‘bad’ child labour. The term child labour therefore covers a wide range of situations, to which the ethical economic and legal responses could be different. To attempt a definition of child labour, child should be defined and this term is used to refer to different people in different places. In the west for instance age is used to determine who a child is but in many societies, cultural and social factors enter as well (Rodgers & Standing 1981). The evolution of a child to adulthood passes through socially and biologically defined life phases over which the degree of dependence and the need for protection of the child gradually declines e.g in many societies an apprentice even if only eight or nine years old is often considered a child – a determination based on social status rather than age (Morile, 1981). In this sense, many societies especially poor rural ones do not view child work as ‘bad’ rather, it is part of the socialization process which gradually introduces the child into work activities


and teaches the child survival skills. This view is present in many African countries including Nigeria (Bekombo, 1981), Agiobu – Kemmer, 1992). The concept of work is equally problematic to apply to the range of activities which children do like domestic work, to work in the household enterprise or farm, trading or heavy physical work (Rodgers and Standing 1981). The definition should consider the arrangement whether it is exploitative or it takes the form of bonded labour, quasi-slavery of feudal relationship. Any work that a person engages at full-time at too early an age (say 5-14) and works too many hours or when the work puts excessive physical, social and psychological strains on the person and hampers the person’s development in these areas (social, physical and psychological) (UNICEF 1986; ILO, 1992) is considered child labour. For Ashagrie (1993) a child is considered or classified as a labourer if the child is economically active. That is the child is gainfully employed or does work on a regular basis for which he or she is enumerated or which results in output destined for the market. Child work here is used to refer to the doing of light household chores and can actually have some learning value (ILO 1995). By and large, child labor in this paper shall be conceived as the engagement of a person below the age of 15 in economic or remunerated activities. This engagement has physical, social and psychological effects on the person with implication in psychomotor manipulation cognitive coordination and Affective distortion of the self on the family and the society making it a social problem. It is also work that is essentially exploitative and injurious to the physical, social, cognitive and moral development of the child. It involves young persons who are exposed to long hours of work in a dangerous or


unhealthy environment with too much responsibility for their age and at the expense of their schooling. Types of Child Labour As stated above, several children’s engagements in some activities are said to be beneficial to the holistic development or the child by way of socialization. This is because there are skills and capabilities that a child must possess to function effectively in both the micro and macro society. The cases of “bad child labour” which forms the crux of this paper are:  Child slavery which involves the sale of children for economic activities in agriculture regions like Ondo State, Rivers etc.  Children that are used for drug trafficking and other illicit activities.  Child trade which involves the act of hawking and engaging in all forms of trade activities eg. is the case in urban centres.  Child prostitution and pornography  The forced or compulsory recruitment of children in armed conflicts. A discussion of some suffices. Child begging This has negative psychological, social and health consequences. The three categories of child beggars are - those who lead blind parents or relatives, those who beg entirely on their own and those who act as fronts for their parents, especially mothers, who are usually hidden from public view but supervises them from a close distance. These children are the most vulnerable because they are from families of the poorest of the poor. In all three categories, they run enormous risks of running or darting between cars in heavy traffic putting them in dangers of accidents. They also suffer the severe psycho-social consequences of


engaging in demeaning type of activity and being exposed to constant abuse and aggression from the general public. In the southern part of Nigeria, begging was not significant though among the Yorubas, it was culturally expected that mothers with many children would beg (normally for a few days) as a symbolic expression of their willingness to demean themselves for the survival of the children. In recent times however, this has changed as beggars can be spotted in several cities. Begging is most wide-spread in the North where alms giving is widely regarded as a religious obligation. The largest percentage here belongs to the almajiranci system – a semi-formal system of qu’ranic education, in which children mostly boys are sent by their parents to take up residence with Islamic teachers or mallamai for instructions in the qu’ran and other texts. Almajiranci is an Arabic word almuhajir (migrated) an allusion of the time of Prophet Mohammed when the Meccans migrated to Medina (Imam 1998) Albert (1994). Sexual Exploitation Commercial sexual exploitation has become a problem of special concern in Nigeria, both because of its scale and links with commercial trafficking in women and girls and because of its role in the development of the HIV/AIDS epidemic now sweeping the country. Though studies on it is scarce owing to its clandestine nature and the traditional inhibitions on discussions of sexual behaviour. The few studies (Chickwem et al 1989, Adeyoke & Adedoyin, 1995) Oloko (1999) MWADRS/UNICEF (1999). Indicated that child prostitution is now common in towns such as Port Harcourt, Calabar, Owerri and other parts of the country surveys carried out between 1989 and 1993 by the West African Research Group on sexual Networking Orubuloye et al (1994) identified the characteristics of commercial sex workers in five cities – Lagos, Ado-Ekiti


and Benin, in for the west, Port Harcourt in the South South and Kaduna in the North. They commercial sex workers were found in hotels, brothels, bars and streets, many below twenty years and comparatively educated. They operated outside their local governments, from different ethnic groups, most of them were single (separated or divorced). Those who had children were left with grand mothers in their local areas and there was tendencies to have them originate from Polygamous homes. They were on the average found to have about thirty clients a week. The clients were both single and married. Sexual exploitation does not end with prostitution alone, there are other forms of abuse-scarcity of jobs economic pressure of dependent children and in adequate financial support from husbands are among them. These include students in secondary schools and tertiary institutions. Child Labour in Agricultural Sector Most child labour occurs in agriculture and in the informal sector of the economy, where these and other provisions of the Labour act are neither monitored nor enforced. Child labour in this sector by a study has shown areas like Ondo, Ado Ekiti, Ibadan and others, areas as destinations of these children. Some of them are engaged in such demeaning practices akin to slavery such as a sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and forced labour. Child Labour: A Historical Appraisal All social phenomenon posses historical contours or they are their historical contours. Though it has never been easy to fix a definite beginning of any concept but the events leading to or the effects of an activity (ies) is often used as bedrock for assessing histories of phenomenon. For child labour, an investigation carried out by a British parliamentary committee on conditions of child labour in the United Kingdom in 1832 showed that children have been working. (Basu 1998).


Other scholars have severally maintained that the industrial revolution in Europe and America in the sixteenth century brought about child labour that conforms with the definition above. This is because before this time, children were engaged in household chores and light farm work but these were not remunerated. The coming of industrialization therefore marked the beginning of child labour (Marx, 1967). At this time the percentages of male child labourers exceeded that of the females. For instance (De Herdf, 1996, Parsons & Goldin, 1989 and Saito 1996) severally maintained that the census of England and Wales of 1861 had 36.9% of boys in the 10-14 age group as labourers and girls was 20.5%. For Africa and Asia in 1950, it was higher than this. However some Nations such as Ethiopia, have a much higher rate of child labourers yet the industrializing nations of Belgium, USA and Japan have different rates. Though several scholars are against child labour but some are in support of it. For instance Hutchins & Harrison (1903) quoted a 1770 document which argues that being constantly employed at least twelve hours in a day… we hope the rising generation will be so habituated to constant employment that it would at length prove agreeable and entertaining to them. from children thus trained up to constant labour we may venture to hope the lowering of its price. Despite comments like the above opposition to allowing certain persons of a particular age to engage in labour has been mounting showing that the activities is counter productive. The time or period of the beginning of child labour and its numbers in Nigeria are not known owing to the wide dispersion of child labourers, their employment in the informal sector and in agriculture which are not monitored by labour inspectors and the limited research in this field. A recent assessment, however, puts the lower limits at about eight million (Oloko 1999).


Nigeria follows the Labour Act of 1974 (revised in 1990) which includes a wide range of provisions (in sections 58-63) prohibiting or regulating various forms of child labour. Section 59 prohibits a child under the age of 12 from all work except where he is employed by his family on “light work of an agricultural, domestic or horticultural character” it allows apprenticeships from the age of 12 upwards once parents consent is sought and forbids any child under 15 from taking up industrial employment. The labour inspectorate system monitors the formal sector, ensuring respect of the Provisions of the Labour Act, nonetheless some of the distributive agents and suppliers of the large formal sector companies are known to employ children and these companies cannot claim ignorance of the fact. What then is the theoretical framework for this opposition? The next section will find an answer to it. Child Labour: Causes The predisposing factors of child labour are multifaceted ranging from demographic condition through income insecurity to poverty. Demographically, the growth rates and the densities are of such magnitude that available social amenities cannot go round or are too expensive for the average families. When the family cannot afford the bare basics of substance, the children in need begin to engage in labour. Furthermore, income insecurity due to unemployment and or under utilization are crucial issues in child labour. This situation which came as a result of unemployment and under employment, the income is not enough and often not secured as retrenchment stares them in the face. To make up for this shortage, the child labours. Ignorance on the part of parents, some parent pushes their children to work because they are not aware of the grave consequences of this to the child and the family in the long term. This condition is often reinforced by the nonavailability of or expensive education that is unaffordable to parents. Poverty


is another factor that causes child labour. ILO (1996) maintained that poverty is the greatest single force which creates the flow of children into the workplace… Acute need makes it nearly impossible for households to invest in their children’s education and the price of education can be very expensive for a poor family …. Poor households tend to have more children and large family size has been statistically shown to be associated not only with higher likelihood that children work but also lower school attendance and completion. The comment above shows succinctly, the effects of poverty on very many issues that in turn creates a condition in which the children engage in labour. Finally there is the issue of norm Basu (1998) Dasgupta (1993) maintained that the decision to send a child to work is partly matters of social norm. This is stated that if a parent lives in a society where everybody send their children to work, it is worthwhile for each parent to send his child to work and if everybody does not send their children to work each parent may find it not worthwhile some societies especially in Africa tend to hold this frame. Child Labour: What Consequences for National Development? The effects of child labour transcends personal, family and societal, the conception of these effects may not follow the chronology. At the individual level, child labour impairs the physical and mental development of children. This situation brings about an increment in the number of lay about, mentally demented, and stunted persons in society. This condition spells doom for the society as Basu (1998) maintained that there is a ‘child labour trap’ that the family is likely to fall into. His contention is that an increase in child labour frequently causes a decline in the acquisition of human capital. He explained further if a child is employed all through the day, it is likely that the child will remain uneducated and have low productivity as an adult. That is if a child works more his productivity as an adult falls


because child labour diminishes adult productivity Pigou (1920) noted that many forms of unskilled labour at present open to boys not merely fail to train, but positively untrained their victims. Swaminathan (1997) confirmed this in her study of India, Galbi (1997) argued that the share of child labour in the mills fell during the early nineteenth century precisely because the earlier use in child labour meant that, as these children grew up, there would be a Cohort of none productive adult workers. Eswaran (1996) in his contribution stated that existence of the institution of child labour biases parents towards having more uneducated children rather than a few educated children and this in turn perpetuates the institution of child labour. Child Labour: The Way Forward (Out) Several approaches can be used to combat child labour and they are: i. Reducing poverty – widespread poverty is said to be the major cause of harmful child labour in developing countries. If the poverty level of households is reduced, child labour will also be reduced. ii. Educating children – making basic education compulsory will solve the problem especially in rural areas children can be scheduled to attend school and work without conflicting. iii. Providing support services for working children that is the causes of child labour may be known and palliative measures like feeding schemes, literacy programmes etc can be used. iv. Raising public Awareness -this include improving child knowledge of work hazards raising parental awareness of the human capital loss that may be associated with child labour and changing the emphasis of policy makers. v. Legislation and regulation-child labour laws and regulations can be made and enforced to stop families from sending their children out to work.


Conclusion The concept of child labour is inevitable in some societies as the poverty and socio-economic conditions of the families pushes them out and only when this is improved that the trend can stop. It can also be stopped by adopting the remedies given above. Meanwhile, some situations call for stringent measurements as their condition does not warrant this scenario yet the only way out is to make the parents know the dangers of not educating their children and we shall conclude with a word from Mill (1970) who stated that for a parent not to educate the child is a breach of duty not only towards the child but towards the members of the community generally, who are all liable to suffer seriously from the consequences of ignorance and want of education in their fellow citizens. Hence children and young persons not yet arrived at maturity should be protected from being over worked, labouring for too many hours in the day or on work beyond their strength should not be permitted.

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