Current Progress in Implementing New Methods and Conducting Innovative Surveys for Measuring Exploitation of Children
Current Progress in Implementing New Methods and Conducting Innovative Surveys for Measuring Exploitation of Children
Director, Bureau of Statistics, International Labour Organization
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Current Progress in Implementing New Methods and Conducting Innovative Surveys for Measuring Exploitation of Children ‘Child labour’ has always existed in one form or another. Some forms are exploitative and/or hazardous because they affect the health, spiritual, moral and social development of the children. Many of them are performed under conditions which violate the provisions of international conventions. Yet, the actual magnitude, nature, determinants, consequences and distributions of child labour have never been fully quantified. In recent years it is believed that the practice not only has become increasingly widespread but also more harmful due to several factors, including the economic crises in many countries and a growing pressure from trade globalization. This development has led to serious concerns as well as to controversy about child labour issues in individual countries and internationally. Consequently, the ILO launched in1992 the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) whose main objectives included the quantification of all aspects of the phenomenon at country, regional and global levels. Its exhaustive investigation in more than 200 countries confirmed that the dearth of statistical data was due to the absence of appropriate methodologies for collecting the relevant information. Consequently, special survey approaches were designed and field-tested in several countries. Since then, the newly developed methodologies have been used in a growing number of countries for producing the required statistics at the national level. The results have enabled the ILO not only to make estimates on the extent of economically active children, but also to describe some of the nature, causes, consequences and distributions of their activities (see Tables 2-4). Since some of the non-economic activities, particularly those which are illegal or immoral in nature, have particularly detrimental effects to the children engaged in them, intensive investigations into their prevalence are now underway in many countries worldwide (Table 1).
Progrès actuels dans la mise en œuvre de nouvelles méthodes et la conduite d’enquêtes innovatrices de mesure de l’exploitation des enfants Le « travail des enfants » a toujours existé sous l’une ou l’autre forme. Certaines formes relèvent cependant de l’exploitation ou sont dangereuses parce qu’elles affectent la santé ainsi que le développement spirituel, moral et social des enfants. Nombre de ces travaux sont par ailleurs exécutés dans des conditions en infraction avec les dispositions des conventions internationales. En réalité, l’ampleur, la nature, les déterminants, les conséquences et la répartition du travail des enfants n’ont jamais été totalement quantifiés. Ces dernières années, on estime que de telles pratiques se sont non seulement étendues, mais qu’elles sont également devenues encore plus néfastes en raison de différents facteurs, y compris la crise économique qui sévit dans de nombreux pays et la pression croissante de la mondialisation de l’économie. Cette évolution suscite de graves inquiétudes ainsi qu’une vive controverse sur la problématique du travail des enfants dans différents pays et à l’échelle internationale. C’est pourquoi l’OIT a lancé en 1992 le Programme international de suppression du travail des enfants (IPEC) dont les principaux objectifs comprenaient la quantification de tous les aspects de ce phénomène aux niveaux régional, national et mondial. L’enquête exhaustive menée dans plus de 200 pays a confirmé que l’effondrement des données statistiques était dû à l’absence de méthodologies appropriées pour la collecte des informations afférentes. En conséquence de quoi des approches d’investigation spéciales ont été développées et testées sur le terrain dans plusieurs pays. Depuis lors, les nouvelles méthodologies mises au point ont été appliquées dans un nombre croissant de pays en vue de produire les statistiques requises au niveau national. Les résultats ont non seulement permis à l’OIT d’effectuer des estimations du nombre d’enfants économiquement actifs, mais également de décrire en partie la nature, les causes, les conséquences et la répartition de leurs activités (voir Tableaux 2-4). Etant donné que certaines des activités non économiques, en particulier celles à caractère illégal ou immoral, exercent des effets particulièrement néfastes sur les enfants qui les pratiquent, des études sur leur fréquence sont aujourd’hui en cours de réalisation dans de nombreux pays aux quatre coins du monde (Tableau 1).
There have always been children working in various types of activities and duties, ranging from very light and occasional or leisurely work, often serving as an introduction to adult life and work, to the most wretched activity in terms of its type or conditions of work, including the work place environment. Obviously, therefore, while some types of activities or occupations have very little or no negative effects on the working children and could, in fact, be beneficial as a learning and maturing process, other types are exploitative and/or hazardous with detrimental consequences to the schooling, health, spiritual, moral and normal development of the children. These latter activities violate the provisions of international conventions on the protection of children, particularly those of the 1973 Minimum Age Convention (No.138), the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the 1999 Convention (No.182) on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (ILO,1999) 1. It is quite evident that, despite national differences in the size or intensity of child labour, no country can claim to be free from this phenomenon.
Despite its long existence, the practice has recently become a growing serious concern since it is believed not only to be increasing and appearing in new different forms, but that it is also becoming more harmful. Yet, its actual level, nature, causes, consequences and distributions have never been fully determined. Comprehensive statistical data on the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of working children and the conditions of their work and life are indispensable tools for an understanding of the extent and nature of the child labour phenomenon and for monitoring the level and trend of the practice in a country as well as globally. Such statistics assist in assessing the magnitude of the problems and could serve as an effective instrument for informing the public and generating awareness of the issues, as well as promoting the campaign against the practice at the national level and globally. The availability and appropriate study of the statistics on a continuous basis are essential, in particular for establishing targets, formulating and implementing interventions, evaluating and improving policies, regulations and programmes aimed not only at minimizing the negative consequences of child labour in the short-term, but also, and most importantly, at the immediate eradication of the worst forms and eventual elimination of all facets of the practice
The main reason for the dearth of statistics on child labour has been the absence of appropriate survey methodological approaches for probing into the work of children which, for the most part, is hidden from official registrations of work activities and from standard statistical survey practices. The latter often either ignore age as a variable (in establishment surveys) or apply a lower age limit linked to the standard age for compulsory education. There are, nonetheless, various guesstimates as to the total number of working children worldwide, ranging from 200 to 400 millions. Even if such estimates were to be regarded as realistic, mere global totals do not provide insight into any of the different facets of the practice and the problems inherent therein.
The paucity of relevant statistics has contributed to an increasingly intensive and sometimes emotional debate on the subject. Some tend to downplay the magnitude of the problem, while others exaggerate it. Lack of reliable statistics, therefore, obscures the child labour problem and can lead to counter productive national priorities and initiatives for urgent action.
Following extensive experimental work undertaken during 1992/93 in four selected countries (Ghana, India, Indonesia and Senegal) by the Bureau of Statistics under the auspices of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), the ILO developed statistical survey methodologies to assist countries in collecting and improving their information-base on child labour. Since then and, particularly following the formulation and launching of the IPEC sub-project Statistical information and monitoring programme on child labour (SIMPOC) in 1998, the ILO has collaborated closely with many countries in conducting, or planning undertake, national surveys applying the newly developed methodological approaches, together totalling nearly 35 countries worldwide. More than 40 others are expected are short-listed for such surveys in the next two years. While a large majority of these surveys are in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean, a few are European and Central Asian nations -- e.g., Georgia, Portugal, Romania and Ukraine have already completed or are about to complete the first phase of their respective surveys, and Armenia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Russian Federation, Spain have expressed their interest -- (see Table 1, end of document). Some types of the worst forms of child labour have been identified for investigation in about 25 countries in 2000-01
Based on the findings of the 1992-93 experiments as well as on the results of national surveys carried out since then, the ILO produced estimates on the size of economically active children 5-14 years old at regional and global levels, covering developing countries, which continue to be quoted worldwide. Additionally, the detailed results of the surveys completed in many countries have been used for producing aggregate figures by industry, occupation, work-related injuries and illnesses by industry, etc., as well as the extent of child labour by some selected indicators, all by gender–( see Tables 2-4, end of document). The 1996 estimated global figure of 250 million economically active children 5-14 years old would have been considerably larger if youngsters engaged in non-economic work of a full or near full-tame basis, such as household chores in their own parents’ homes, were also included and the majority of them would be girls.
In the rest of this paper the methodological approaches that were developed by the ILO in the early 1990s are described briefly, including the definitions and other related aspects used, explaining the main reasons for those approaches which have been recommended - (for details, see Ashagrie, 1997 & 1999; and ILO, 2000).
Methodological approaches tested and results: in brief
Following the launching of IPEC in 1992, the ILO Bureau of Statistics (STAT) sent a simple questionnaire to more than 200 countries which aimed at obtaining (i) statistics on economically active children 5-14 years old, and (ii) information about the methods used to collect such statistics. The information sought was limited to ‘economic activity’ and the ‘age-group 5-14 years’ due to the ILO’s Minimum Age Convention (No.138) which prohibits employment of children under 15 years of age since ‘employment’ implies economic activity and children under 5 years are assumed to be too young to work.
A very large majority (approx. 80%) of the countries (including almost all developed nations) did not have the requested information. Their main reason was that their statistical surveys did not cover the population under 15 years since they had already ratified the above Convention, or their schooling regulations, labour code, etc. did not permit this age-group to enter into employment. Another reason cited by many countries was the lack of appropriate survey methodology for covering the activities of the very young segment of the population whose activities are principally in the rural areas and urban informal sector engaged mainly in unpaid work. The statistical data supplied by the remaining 20% of the countries were, for the most part, limited to simple counts and indicated that close to one-half of the children were working as employees which did not reflect reality since most children toil as unpaid workers. This was because the instruments used were the traditional population censuses and labour force surveys which are proven to be deficient for investigating thoroughly activities in the informal sector and particularly those of children of primary school-age whose work is, for the most part, ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’.
As a second step, four survey approaches were designed and tested in a number of countries, together with a supplementary inquiry. Three of the survey approaches were implemented, respectively, for households, employers/establishments/ enterprises, and street children. The fourth method tested was a time-use approach. The supplementary inquiry was based on ‘key informants’ and applied at the community level (cities, towns, villages). The main purpose was to determine which survey methodology would yield the best results. The surveys were planned to be large-scale sample surveys for producing comprehensive estimates at the national level as well as some results for smaller geographical areas within a country.
The surveys mentioned above were designed to measure as many variables as possible, particularly in relation to the various non-schooling activities of children in the 5-14 age group, their characteristics and those of their parents or guardians, and so on. The principal variables considered for the investigation related to the following subjects, as expressed in broad terms:
the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the children, including their schooling and training status, occupations, skill levels, hours of work, earnings and other working and living conditions and the reasons for working, as well as the actual work and workplace or environment related hardships and risks they face, focussing especially on actual injuries and diseases sustained, their frequency and gravity.
the socio-economic situation of their parents or guardians, or other relatives with whom the children live, as well as the particulars of their employers;
the migration status of the children and how they live (in particular those on the streets); where the children have been working, for how long and why they are working, their own immediate and future plans and those of employers using child workers; and
the perceptions of the parents or guardians about their working youngsters as well as those of the children themselves and their employers.
The above survey approaches are based on scientifically designed samples and stratifications. Thus the validity of their final estimates could be determined through the computations of design effects (DEFT) and confidence intervals (CI), etc. for all major variables and for each level of the estimates, to assist the users of the data in interpreting them more accurately. However, one major drawback is that the results are not useful for investigating certain activities or occupations which are either illegal or considered to be immoral, as information on them is difficult to capture through direct interviewing of the respondents themselves. For the investigation of such activities and occupations, a micro-level rapid assessment (RA) procedure has also been developed recently and is being tested at present. It will be described in the last section of this paper.
Definitions related to child labour used in the household surveys
The concepts, definitions, classifications, etc., used were generally in line with internationally recommended standards with some variations to reflect the unique circumstance of child work and the peculiarities of the individual countries.
Depending on the availability of basic information or demarcations regarding the general characteristics of the areas covered and the availability of appropriate sampling frames, the different elements considered for the sample design and stratifications included development levels of the selected rural and urban areas: for example, poorly developed/well developed, slum/non-slum blocks, income classes (low, middle, high), overall rates of literacy/illiteracy of the general population, school attendance levels and so on. This was because it is known that factors such as these and the incidence of child labour are correlated. .
For the purposes of the experiments, a child was defined as a person between 5 and 14 years of age. This definition also satisfies the provisions of the Minimum Age Convention (No.138) which prohibits children under 15 years of age to enter into employment. Now that Convention No. 182 concerning the Worst forms of child labour has been adopted for those under 18 years, surveys of child labour will also cover the age-group 5-17 years which satisfies also the Right of the Child Convention. In the absence of a universally endorsed precise definition of ‘child labour’ all activities of children were enumerated and quantified so that the results could be tabulated according to the different characteristics or categories of the variables included in the questionnaires. Depending on the level and nature of the quantified activities or variables, those which were judged or expected to have negative effects or consequences on the health, education and normal development of the working child were considered as falling within the boundary of ‘child labour’.
The main focus of the surveys was on the ‘economic activity’ of the children, whether paid in cash or in kind, or in unpaid family work, respecting the international definition. Therefore some activities carried out exclusively for their own household consumption, such as carrying water, fetching firewood, pounding and husking food products, were also considered as falling within the boundary of economic activity. While the dividing line between economic and non-economic activities for cases such as the above is not always obvious, these and many others (for example, preservation of fruit by drying or bottling, weaving cloth, and dressmaking and tailoring), are considered to fall within the limits of economic activity or the production boundary defined by the System of National Accounts (SNA, 1993).
Schooling activities, including school attendance, were measured as much as possible through the household inquiry; but a full-fledged survey of schools was not attempted. Information on non-schooling activities of a ‘non-economic’ nature (especially household chores or housekeeping services provided in the childs own parents’ or guardians’ homes) was also collected. In all the surveys, both the ‘current’ and the ‘usual’ economic activity approaches were applied, the first in reference to activities during a short period such as the week (or seven days) prior to the date of the interview, and the second in reference to a long period such as the 12 months (or 365 days) preceding the inquiry date. The latter reference period takes seasonality into account, which is an important factor since a considerable proportion of children’s activities is seasonal, including activities undertaken when schools are closed.
i) Household-level survey: In all the selected areas the household-based surveys were carried out strictly on a relatively rigorous sample basis using a multi-stage (two- or three-stage) stratified sampling design. Using the household listing for a sampling frame as well as the basic information that was collected during the listing, all the listed households in each unit of the segment were then grouped into three strata as follows:
-- households with at least one paid child worker (in the specific age group);
-- households without a paid child worker but with at least one child working as an unpaid family worker (in the same specific age group); and
-- other households (in the same age group).
As a final step in the sample selection procedure, a specified number of households in each of the above three strata were selected by means of systematic sampling which formed the final stage sampling units. Through these sampling procedures or slight variations, between 4,000 and 5,000 households were selected to represent the sample size for the surveys in each of the four countries.
Where suitable statistical software packages were not available in the statistical offices of the countries concerned, a self-weighting systematic sampling design with probability proportional to size (PPS) was adopted. This approach assisted in providing a uniform weight for estimating totals. It also facilitated the computation of percentages, means and ratios of the population parameters directly from the sample data.
The questionnaire that was applied at the household level consisted of two parts. The first part was addressed to the head of the household (or a proxy) to obtain information on the demographic and socio-economic composition of the household, including such aspects as housing facilities, household migration status and living standards, and the education level and economic activity status of the household members. The second part was used to collect the required information from the individual children themselves.
As a supplement, a simple questionnaire was used to interview elected and appointed leaders, administrators and the like, in the communities or towns and villages of the selected areas so as to identify the major local socio-economic characteristics, assess development levels and determine the differential in the incidence of child labour. This investigation was also used to list the households which served as a sampling frame. During the household listing stage, basic information on a limited number of variables relating to each household and its members was also obtained to facilitate the stratification of the households in each segment and the sample selection of households.
ii) Establishment survey: The employers (establishment or enterprise) questionnaire was addressed to the owner of the business or a designated respondent, seeking information on the particulars of the ownership, the goods produced and services rendered, the number of children and adults engaged, their working conditions, the reasons for using child workers, facilities and health care at the workplace, etc.
In this approach, probability sampling was impossible as there was no basic information which could serve as a master sampling frame, such as an exhaustive list or directory of employers in respect of the areas selected for the surveys. Therefore only those employers identified by the children themselves or their parents during the household interview , and enterprises known or suspected to be using child workers, were located and interviewed on a random basis. In this way, up to a total of 200 entities were identified and enumerated in the urban and rural areas selected in each country.