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Understanding child labor in Ghana beyond poverty : the structure of the economy, social norms, and no returns to rural basic education

  • Krauss, Alexander

Child labor is pervasive across sub-Saharan Africa. A common assumption is that monetary poverty is its most important cause. The paper investigates this hypothesis with empirical evidence by exploring structural, geographic, monetary, demographic, cultural, seasonal and school-supply factors simultaneously that can affect child labor. It is a first attempt in the literature combining quantitative with qualitative methods to identify a much broader range of potential causes -- on the demand- and supply-side and at the micro and macro levels -- of why children work in agrarian economies like Ghana. Interviews with the Minister of Education and with children enrich the multivariate regression findings and identify interdependencies between schooling and child labor demand. The multiple causes of child labor include the country's agricultural dependency, demographics and social norms, as well as the geographic isolation of Northern children and no returns to rural basic education. It also finds that child labor and schooling are likely to become substitutes rather than complements when children live in an agricultural household in the North and are males. Policy responses are outlined particularly on the demand-side that are needed to help mitigate harmful child labor that affects children's education, with implications for similar agriculturally-dependent economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6513.

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Date of creation: 01 Jun 2013
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6513
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  1. Canagarajah, Sudharshan & Coulombe, Harold, 1997. "Child labor and schooling in Ghana," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1844, The World Bank.
  2. Ray, R., 2000. "The Determinants of Child Labour and Child Schooling in Ghana," Papers 2000-5, Tasmania - Department of Economics.
  3. Blunch, Niels-Hugo & Verner, Dorte, 2000. "Revisiting the link between poverty and child labor - the Ghanaian experience," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2488, The World Bank.
  4. Heady, Christopher, 2003. "The Effect of Child Labor on Learning Achievement," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 385-398, February.
  5. World Bank, 2010. "Education in Ghana : Improving Equity, Efficiency and Accountability of Education Service Delivery," World Bank Other Operational Studies 3012, The World Bank.
  6. D. Vuri, 2008. "The effect of availability and distance to school on children's time allocation in Ghana and Guatemala," UCW Working Paper 40, Understanding Children's Work (UCW Programme).
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