Recent global estimates indicate that 152 million children – 64 million girls and 88 million boys – are engaged in child labour across the world (ILO 2017b: 8). According to these same estimates,
71% of child labourers work in the agricultural sector and 69% in unpaid work within their own family. Nearly half of all those in child labour are doing ‘hazardous work’ (ibid). According to the
ILO, the total number of children in child labour has declined by about 94 million since 2000, although this trend has slowed significantly in recent years (ILO 2017a: 10).
Four policy areas have been identified as key to tackling the problem of child labour: legal standards and regulation, social protection, labour markets and – the topic of this review – education. This report is one of a two-part series. The first (Orrnert 2018) examines the links between education and child labour, including children combing school and work; education as a tool for getting children out of child labour and poor quality education pushing children out of the classroom and into work. This report examines the available evidence on short and long-term impacts of interventions targeted at working children.
Key findings include:
- The existing body of evidence on the impact of education interventions on children in work is mixed. There is a relatively substantial volume of research which examines the impacts of conditional cash transfers linked with children’s education. There is also a smaller body of evidence around the impact of financial incentives to children and their families (including scholarships and school subsidies). The evidence on other types of education interventions – such as provision of non-financial subsidies (for example, Food-for-Education or free transportation), improving quality of education as well as transitional or informal learning programmes for working children- is much more fragmented and patchy.
- Research on the impact of education interventions on working children tends to focus on short-term impacts (measured as enrolment and attendance; grade progression or attainment). This reflects, in part, the short-term nature of many of the interventions themselves. Importantly, short-term impacts ‘do not necessarily lay the foundation for long term sustainable results’ (ILO 2017a: 20).
- Because they aim to reduce the overall cost of education, the impacts of cash transfers, financial and other subsidies are generally perceived to be greater for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
- Many studies also find a gendered variation with regards to impacts.
- Some evaluations report negligible impact which may be, at least in part, due to the short time-frame for implementation of many interventions. The ILO (2017a: 43) notes that ‘sustainable change usually takes longer to achieve than the 48-month period of a typical project’.
- Longer-term impacts are more difficult to study, although a handful of evaluations do provide insights into these (for example, Barham et al 2012; Filmer and Schady 2014 and Edmonds and Shresthra 2015).
- An intervention may have multiple, competing or diverging impacts. For example, interventions that succeed in improving access, enrolment and attendance may lack the capacity to meet increased demand for education, thereby lowering the quality of services (see, for example, the unintended negative consequences highlighted by Grisewood 2008; de Silva and Sumarto 2014: 3; Zhang et al 206; ILO 2017a). Interventions that increase enrolment may not increase attendance; interventions that increase school attendance may not substantially decrease child labour (see, for example, Kazianga et al 2013 and, de Hoop and Rosati 2013 separate analyses of the same data from the BRIGHT programme in Burkina Faso).
- Unintended negative consequences of interventions may be related to a mismatch between short- and long-term objectives and impacts (Zhang et al 2016) or, simply, an intervention’s lack of long-term sustainability.
This review identified a number of gaps in the research, including:
- With the exception of the literature on conditional cash transfers, there is a general gap in research examining the impact of interventions around education interventions for
- There is a need for more research on the longer-term impact of education interventions for working children. In particular, there is a need for additional research that looks at
long-term impacts for girls (Barham et al 2012: 22)
- There is a need for more data which illuminates variation of impacts (e.g., by gender, age, etc.) (Miller and Tsoka 2012; Kazianga et al 2013)
- While research indicates that schooling conditions affect school participation, there is little evidence that schooling conditions impact on child labour – the relationship between the two merits more research (de Hoop and Rosati 2013: 29) The evidence is limited around the impact of education interventions that address child labour more generally (Dammert et al 2017: 3).
- The evidence on the impact of improved quality of education is limited (Rosati and Rossi 2007: 16; De Hoop and Rosati 2013: 20).
- There is a lack of literature on the impacts of transitional and informal education initiatives.