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Child labor and schooling in Ghana


  • Canagarajah, Sudharshan
  • Coulombe, Harold


Child labor is a widespread, growing problem in the developing world. About 250 million of the world's children work, nearly half of them full-time. Child labor (regular participation in the labor force to earn a living or supplement household income) prevents children from participating in school. One constraint on Ghana's economic growth has been inadequate human capital development. According to 1992 data for Ghana, one girl in three and one boy in four does not attend school. The figures are worse in rural areas. The authors studied the dynamics of how households decided whether to send children 7 through 14 to school or to work, using household survey data for 1987-92. They do not address the issue of street kids, which does not imply that they are less important than the others. Unlike child labor in Asia, most child labor in Africa, especially Ghana, is unpaid work in family agricultural enterprises. Of the 28 percent of children engaged in child labor, more than two-thirds were also going to school. Of all children between 7 and 14, about 90 percent helped with household chores. Boys and girls tend to do different types of work. Girls do more household chores while boys work in the labor force. The data do not convincingly show, as most literature claims, that poverty is the main cause of child labor. But poverty is significantly correlated with the decision to send children to school, and there is a significant negative relationship between going to school and working. Increased demand for schooling is the most effective way to reduce child labor and ensure that Ghana's human capital is stabilized. The high cost of schooling and the poor quality and irrelevance of education has also pushed many children into work. And family characteristics play a big role in the child's decision to work or go to school. The father's education has a significant negative effect on child labor; the effect is stronger on girls than on boys. So adult literacy could indirectly reduce the amount of child labor.

Suggested Citation

  • Canagarajah, Sudharshan & Coulombe, Harold, 1997. "Child labor and schooling in Ghana," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1844, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1844

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chernichovsky, Dov, 1985. "Socioeconomic and Demographic Aspects of School Enrollment and Attendance in Rural Botswana," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 319-332, January.
    2. Glewwe, P. & Jacoby, H., 1993. "Delayed Primary School Enrollment and Childhood Malnutrition in Ghana, an Economic Analysis," Papers 98, World Bank - Living Standards Measurement.
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