In this paper we present findings on the place of work in the lives of children. These findings come from a study carried out with children in three Ethiopian communities, in two cities and one rural area. We describe the types of work done by boys and girls of different ages, and show how these children seek to combine work with school. We find that, with changes in the economic contexts, some children started paid work as early as 8 years old but that most younger children were mainly involved in work for the household. Gender differences become more prominent with age: compared to boys, older girls routinely take on greater responsibility for household chores and care activities; going to school or undertaking paid work does not diminish their household responsibilities.
Children’s assessment of their work in terms of associated benefits, potential risks and actual harm is complex. Most work that children do entails some risks and benefits. However, only some potential risks mentioned were reported as actual harms children faced and children often wanted to engage in paid work and challenged the common assumption that paid work is more risky and less beneficial than work for the household. Work was important to children’s everyday survival as well as their family relationships and their aspirations for the future, and children were proud to be able to assist their families. Working and learning were not seen as opposites, and one reason for children working was to be able to contribute to school costs. Children are integrated in households through work and they take on a share of the household responsibilities by working when their families face health problems and other difficulties, and these sometimes require children to leave school and prioritise paid work.
Based on the findings we suggest that social protection policies and programmes should provide insurance against community and household shocks and support children in affected households. Flexible learning arrangements can enable children who are working to continue with schooling.
Pankhurst, A.; Crivello, G.; Tiumelissan, A. Young Lives Working Paper 147. Children’s Work in Family and Community Contexts:Examples from Young Lives Ethiopia. Young Lives, Department of International Development at the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK (2016) 36 pp. ISBN 978-1-909403-62-8