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Socio economic determinants of child labour in selected districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

  • 2018 | Volume: 2 | Issue: 1 | Page: 47-60


This study examines the determinants of child labour in Mardan and Nowshera districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Primary data on socioeconomic characteristics of children engaged and did not engage in child labour were obtained from Labour Education Organization Mardan. Age of the children and family size are positively and education is negatively and significantly associated with the probability of children participation in labour market. The probability of child labour is more with the household income although with a very low coefficient value which is contrary to our expectations and may ne indicative that child labour could be a major source of household income. This study suggests that subsidies may be provided to families for their children education. Family size is also positively related to the child labour, therefore steps may be taken towards encouraging small family sizes and thereby reducing the child labour.

Keywords and JEL Classification


Child labour, Socio-economic Characteristics, Logit Model

JEL Classification

J10, J12

1. Introduction

   Child labour is a serious issue faced by many developing countries including Pakistan. Children engaged in labour are deprived from their right to education. Labour work in such an age is harmful for their mental and physical development. Child labour is exploitative and results in poor standard of living, poor health, attention and education. Parents' lack of education and lack of awareness about the negative consequences of child labour could have long-term implications not only for their families but overall country's development is jeopardized (Kazmi, 2015). Nawaz and Shaheen (2017) reported that poverty, migration, education and family were the main factors for the child labour. Further, they found that children were exploited and harassed on regular basis at the workplace. In the developing countries most families face challenges to have a very basic shelter; food and clothing and therefore almost all family members are forced to work including children. International Labour Organization (ILO) in its 2013 report highlight that around 168 million children were involved child labour worldwide. Furthermore, according to ILO, about 12 million children alone are employed in Pakistan in the year 2015.

   Osment (2014) argued that many countries face the child labour problem because of the extreme poverty. Furthermore, child labour can have many consequences for entire families and could also causes issues such a slavery and abandoned labour. They also found that many countries have policies in place to eradicate the child labour although there has been a challenge in enforcing such policies in true spirit. This problem is more serious in developing countries where children are made to work to fulfil their basic needs and absence of the social security net further aggravates the problem. Gandapur et.al (2014) reported that Pakistani parents also face many economic problems and therefore children are engaged in labour at their school going age.

   Generally, in developing countries where policies either do not exist or enforcement is weak, children are underpaid, and their working conditions are hazardous. They are engaged labour in unhygienic and unsafe working environments. Children are also generally exposed to hazardous work. Most children are employed in industrial related jobs or technical trade related jobs where they use sharp objects and physically exertive jobs that which could result in long term health related issues in future. Pakistan's per-capita income has been around $1900 which is quite low to support a larger average Pakistani family. There has been ever increasing inflation that also make the life of people miserable. According to Asian Development Bank, about 24.3 percent of Pakistan population lived below the national poverty line in 2015. Furthermore, Social Policy Development Centre (SPDC) reported that in 1999, 33% people lived under poverty which increased 38% in the next two years (Zaidi et. al., 2013). This study examines the socioeconomic and demographic status of the families whose children were engaged in child labour and otherwise. It is important to study such characteristics to have an understanding of the localised environment under which children are engaged in child labour and what steps can be taken to effectively deal with it.

2. Literature Review

   Child labour has been studied in many countries with different polices in places and under various socio-economic characteristics of the households. Siddiqi & Patrino (1995) noted that the child labour is a huge problem especially in developing countries. They found that child labour was more wide spread in rural areas where monitoring and enforcement was difficult. Children work for a variety of reasons among which poverty is the most important reason to meet family needs. Children contribute significantly to their families’ income even though they are not paid as per their labour work. They found that inaccessibility of schools in rural areas, lack of quality education and other socioeconomic problems contributed to the child labour. Social and cultural norms especially about the female education further increased the child labour. This study advocated the establishment of partnerships of governments with humanitarian organizations and the international community for remedying the problems of working children.

   Bhalotra and Heady (2001) observed that land-rich families employed more children compared to land-poor families as land created more opportunities for family labour as well as there is more need for children to work. The majority of children works in developing countries are engaged in agricultural work, predominantly on farms operated by their families. Land is the most important resource of wealth in agrarian countries and it is typically distributed very unequally. They observed that child labour mainly existed in the poorest households. They suggested that this seeming paradox can be explained by failures of the markets for labour and land. Credit market improvement may help alleviating the child labour. They argued that after controlling for household consumption and other covariates, the wealth paradox persists for girls and boys in many countries. Beegle et.al (2005) explored the relationship between household income shocks and child labour using a panel data technique on the household survey in Tanzania. They found significant relationship between child labour and income shocks and borrowings.

   Mahmood et.al (2005) studied the socio-economic determinants of child labour in the automobile workshops, and other engineering workshops in tehsil Samundri, Faisalabad, Pakistan. They interviewed randomly selected 120 respondents under the age of 15 years. Those who aged less than 14 years constituted one half the children interviewed, most had attained primary education, majority lived in rural areas, and had both parents alive but with low income. Majority of the respondents were not willing to work but family financial problems forced them to work. They suggested that more educational and more adult employment opportunities could help eradicate poverty and thus child labour. Edmonds (2007) noted child labour was influenced by the local labour markets, family conditions, the net return to schooling, and finally the poverty. The study emphasized the importance of the effectiveness of child labour policies, and understanding of the determinants of child labour.

   Ahmad and Haider (2012) investigated the factors for child labour using cross-sectional data collected from 100 households and using a binary choice model. It was found that the education of the household, and their income negatively affected the child labour significantly. Furthermore, child age, and family size were found to be positively related with child labour although insignificantly. In this study they concluded that parental education was necessary for better future of children. The study suggested that government and private sector should provide education facilities to the poor people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The government also needs to establish skill development schools or centres in rural areas as well as in urban areas so that those who cannot afford formal education can acquire technical skills. Zaidi et.al (2013) studied the basic demographic characteristics of those who worked as child labour and also examined the working conditions in which they worked. They collected cross sectional data through a survey which was conducted in district Rawalpindi from January-September 2008. The data were collected from 700 children aged between 4-18 years and their employers. The major reasons for the child labour were low family income and the existence of poverty. Pervez and Mukhtar (2014) noted most children were employed in fan manufacturing industries, ceramics industry and automobile workshops in the district Gujarat, Pakistan. They used the Logit and Probit models for estimating the factors responsible for child labour. Family income had a negative and statistically significant effect on the child labour while average family size was found to positively affecting it. They suggested that people need to be informed of the adverse effects of child labour and education should be made accessible and affordable.

3. Research Methods

4. Results & Discussion

5. Conclusion

   The major objective of this study was to find out the socioeconomic determinants of child labour in Mardan and Nowshera districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. We used both descriptive and econometrics techniques to analyze the effect of various factors on children participation in child labour. Age of the children was found to be positive and significantly relating with the probability of participation. The relationship between child labour and child education was found to be negative. Furthermore, parent's education was also found to negatively affect the participation in child labour albeit insignificantly. The relationship between family size and child labour was found to be positive although insignificant. The probability of child labour was more with the household income although with a very low coefficient value which is contrary to our expectations.

   As it was found that the age was positively related to the participation in child labour, it is pertinent that families are monitored and provided financial support especially for education. As the age increases, the cost of education also generally increases. Therefore, targeted subsidies may provide to the families to encourage them to send their children to school. Education of both the children and their parents were found to be significant determinants of the child labour. It had a negative effect on the child labour participation. Therefore, it is important that the education of not only the children but also their parents may be improved. Family size was also positively related to the child labour. The growth in families has been a major problem in Pakistan as there are usually a few members who contribute to the income while the rest are dependents. Steps may be taken towards encouraging small family sizes and thereby reducing the child labour.


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