Intra-household decisions and discrimination: Orphanage, bargaining and child labour

Type Working Paper
Title Intra-household decisions and discrimination: Orphanage, bargaining and child labour
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Together with childhood issues such as health status, food security and education, the
employment of children in labour activities is a pressing global concern. Although participation
in various household tasks and increasing responsibilities with age are reasonable in promoting
child development, the involvement of children in tasks that compete with schooling and leisure
time while potentially compromising health status is an issue that cannot be overlooked and
disproportionately affects the African sub-continent. The International Labour Organization
(ILO) states that the internationally accepted age for adolescents to engage in labour activities is
15 years; however, the reality of many youth in developing countries is that involvement in work
often begins at an earlier age. Whereas the share of under-15 children who are employed in Asia,
Latin America and the Pacific ranges from 5 to 13 per cent, within Sub-Saharan Africa over onethird
of children 5 to 14 years old are employed as child labourers (Ki Moon 2007).
The context of HIV/AIDS in Africa is one key factor related to the differential in child labour
participation with respect to other continents. With Sub-Saharan Africa home to two-thirds of
the world's HIV/AIDS-infected population, more than 43 million children have been orphaned as
a result of the disease (ILO 2006). HIV/AIDS changed the demographic face of Africa and, in turn,
the structure of its households directly and indirectly affected by the pandemic, resulting in a
greater prevalence of single-headed and even child-headed households, greater incidence of
orphans, and ultimately a greater involvement of children in paid and unpaid labour activities
(ILO 2006).
Whereas orphan children and their immediate families are an example of the households directly
impacted by HIV/AIDS-related deaths, the households taking in orphans as foster children can
be identified as an example of the indirect way in which HIV/AIDS has affected household
structure. Many orphan children are fostered by relatives or neighbours in acts of familial or
community support, and whereas fostering of children has been documented as a transfer of
resources across households, motivated by income-generating, consumption-smoothing and/or
risk-mitigation/management behaviour (Akresh 2009; Bass 2004; also see Serra (2009) for a
review of the fostering literature), in the context of orphan children, fostering may not
necessarily be a strategic reciprocity arrangement and could therefore have different
implications for the host family and the welfare of the fostered child. However, regardless of
fostering status, the combination of the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on Sub-Saharan
Africa, the resulting labour constraints for affected households, and the overly high likelihood of
children working before the age of 15 in the same region raises the question of whether orphan
children may be the inadvertent recipients of lower human capital investments at the ages in
which such investments matter most

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