18 June 2010

The Child Labour Market in Juba

This chart comes from a fascinating new report on Child workers in Juba.

Economic Activities of Children working on the streets in Juba.


I’m really torn on whether it is a good idea to give money to these kids or not. They are usually around outside the Ministries washing cars, and polishing shoes at the local cafes. It seems like a classic aid problem of weighing the direct benefit vs the indirect harm. Is the meal today worth more than the disincentive to attend school?

I’ve tried to do a bit of homework (er, googling), and one of the foremost experts on the economics of child labour seems to be Kaushik Basu, previously a professor at Princeton and now Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India (he has written a book on the subject – see here for the review on Marginal Revolution). Sadly though all I can really find are government policy recommendations, with no suggestions for the concerned individual (although there are some general concerns about potentially perverse impacts of well-meaning trade boycotts at the national level.

Any ideas?

Finally back to that report. It doesn’t tell us how many of their interviewees just work on the streets, and how many live there too. It doesn’t tell us how the questions were worded. It doesn’t have any cross-tabulations. Next time I would recommend paying a visit to the SSCCSE for some statistical advice.


Ranil Dissanayake said...

Well, what's the alternative. That should be an important question. If you don't give them money will they go to school? If they're starving, it's unlikely - they'll still try scrounge up some food somewhere.

I also note that according to this report there is no organised child labour at all, unless these informal activities are part of a larger network or employers giving kids piece-work. Does that sound right to you? Does Sudan have any businesses where children might be working?

The best solution, if the kids are just scrounging around ad hoc trying to get a meal is to get support for schools to provide meals. If they're part of an organised network of businesses and getting salaries, assuming they're not orphans, then the answer is to get their parents better jobs and salaries so it makes better sense for a kid to go to school than to work on the streets.

Both long term solutions.

Lee said...

There are children breaking rocks as part of a family business which is probably about as organised as it gets.

Your solutions are the correct ones but they are policy solutions, and not something that an individual can do directly.

Should you pay the 7-year old who offers to wash your car or shine your shoes?

texasinafrica said...

There might be a community group or religious organization working with some segment of these children to which you could donate. That's my preferred method for helping street kids in Goma; give it to the people who are making sure they get a meal every day, who notice when they disappear, and who take them to the doctor when they get sick.

Ranil Dissanayake said...

Yeah, I see your question. I'd pay them if you needed the service - and explain why you do or don't pay them each time. They might not be in school, but they'd learn something about entrepreneurship at least.

Though TIAs solution is better.

Anonymous said...

Is school free for all ages? I know in Mexico for instance, children only get a free education through 6th grade (about 11yrs old) so they ate on the streets doing jobs like you mentioned above. Also, if the patents don't really see the value of an education they aren't going to be advocates for the kids. They need them out there bringing in income, not sitting in a classroom.

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