Work in Children's Lives in Ethiopia: Examples from Young Lives Communities


The role and value of child work are under scrutiny as never before in Ethiopia, as elsewhere, where the rapid expansion of formal schooling, as well as broader social, political and economic changes, bring into sharp relief competing definitions of what a ‘good childhood’ should look like for this generation of children. Although working from a young age was historically considered a normal part of childhood and of socialisation processes, this view is being challenged by current policies which emphasise the negative aspects of child work, meanwhile championing the positive aspects of schooling. Yet, for many children and families, work remains a defining feature of childhood and an important part of managing everyday risk and pursuing long-term well-being. For them, school and work are not ‘opposites’, although many children find it difficult to juggle multiple and sometimes competing demands on their time.

In an earlier study conducted in southern Ethiopia, Abebe (2008: 3) describes these societal shifts in terms of ‘the tension between young people’s daily lives and their future wishes on the one hand and, on the other, what they are required to learn through formal education in order to become full members of society’. In the previous chapter, Abebe argues against a ‘silo’ approach to child labour in favour of attending to the broader structures and politico-economic contexts within which children’s lives unfold. The current study complements Abebe’s macro-focus by taking a close look at the life worlds of working children in three Ethiopian communities. In this chapter, we ask: ‘What is the place for “work” in children’s lives and life trajectories, and what do children themselves have to say?’


Pankhurst, A.; Crivello, G.; Tiumelissan, A. Work in Children’s Lives in Ethiopia: Examples from Young Lives Communities. OSSREA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2015)

Work in Children’s Lives in Ethiopia: Examples from Young Lives Communities

Published 1 January 2015