Feature Article of Monday, 26 November 2012

Columnist: Karikari, Isaac

Reduced Costs of Schooling Can Help Reduce Child Labour

Election 2012, Educational Policies and Child Labour: Reduced Costs of Schooling Can Help Reduce Child Labour

By Isaac Karikari (bkkarikari@yahoo.com)

Despite the variations in the viewpoints of the various political parties it appears there is a common point of convergence on the issue of education. They all unanimously agree about the importance of education, and the need to not only ensure increased access to education across the nation but to concurrently improve its quality and affordability.

Beyond free education, if real quality can be ensured it bodes well for the nation. Reducing the costs of education and ensuring that the quality standards are high will be a monumental step towards ensuring equal access to education and making it more attractive. Studies conducted reveal that reduced costs of education coupled with high returns and benefits can help reduce child labour.1,2,3

Child labour is pervasive in Ghana. It remains a dent in the nation’s global reputation. Ghana was threatened with a boycott of its cocoa products a few years ago, and it all had to do with child labor in the cocoa sector. The National Programme for the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour in Cocoa growing areas (NPECLC), established in 2006, represents one of the initiatives aimed at addressing the issue. The NPECLC continues to receive support from the Government of Ghana (through the Ghana Cocoa Board [COCOBOD]) and some donor agencies. 4,5,6,7,8

Some Ghanaian children still work in conditions deemed hazardous in the agric sector as well as in mines. Hard data is difficult to come by. However, the statistical estimates and prevalence rates suggest the involvement of several children in work detrimental to their growth and wellbeing. In a recent report by the United States Labor Department, Ghana was still cited for child labour in the cocoa sector as well as in mining and fishing. 4,5,8 With the involvement of the Chinese in illegal artisanal mining (galamsey), it has become more sophisticated and the “gold rush” in rural communities has become more lucrative. Many young children of school-going age in these communities skip school in preference of such activities. Unfortunately, they often do so with the endorsement of their parents and guardians who perceive it to be more profitable than schooling.

Though some policies have been put in place nationally, they are either not enough or just ineffective. Moreover, some scholars have noted that usually international policies meant to curb child labour such as bans on the involvement of children in agriculture and industrial settings tend to be of little effect. At best some of these policies only result in the relocation of child labourers to other sectors. This is because the underlying issues and factors remain. 2,4,5

The high cost of schooling is one reason why child labour persists. Additionally, the unfavorable outcomes associated with schooling such as the inability to find jobs after school is another contributing factor. These factors sometimes compel families to send their children out to work rather than enrolling them in school. A strong link between education and employment, and the increased affordability of quality education can mitigate the involvement of children in harmful labour activities. Child labour can result in the perpetuation of the cycle of poverty in families. Essentially, if the cost of education in Ghana is reduced and the quality is improved there will be great social and economic benefits for the nation. There will also be health benefits as well, notably, a reduction in the nation’s mortality and morbidity rates. It will also enhance Ghana's image internationally through an improvement of the nation’s human rights record (especially in relation to child labour/abuse and forced labour). 1,2,3 This important correlation between education and child labor was emphasized in a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2007. The report states that “free and compulsory quality education up to the minimum age for entering employment or work is the most important tool for eliminating child labour” (p. 56). 5

There is evidence that programmes designed to reduce the costs of schooling and increase the incomes of households have helped reduce child labor. Countries that have developed such programmes include Mexico, Brazil and India. 2

Ghana, together with other member states of the International Labour Organization (ILO), has expressed a commitment towards eliminating the worse forms of child labour by 2016.5,9 Education policies that will ensure affordability and increase accessibility to education can help towards the realization of this goal.5 Instead of pooh-poohing such policies, I think the focus should be on how they can be strengthened, effectively implemented and sustained. The clock is ticking and there is no time for politicking.


1- Adhvaryu, A. R., & Nyshadham, A. (2012). Schooling, child labor, and the returns to healthcare in Tanzania. Journal Of Human Resources, 47(2), 364-396.

2- Edmonds, E. V., & Pavcnik, N. (2005). Child labor in the global economy. Journal Of Economic Perspectives, 19(1), 199-220.

3- Fors, H. (2012). Child labour: A review of recent theory and evidence with policy implications. Journal Of Economic Surveys, 26(4), 570-593.

4- Government of Ghana (2011). Budget statement and economic policy of the government for the year ending 31st December 2012. Retrieved from http://www.ghana.gov.gh/documents/2012full.pdf

5- International Labour Organization (ILO) (2007). The decent work agenda in AFRICA: 2007– 2015. Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/rgmeet/11afrm/dg-thematic.pdf

6- United States Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor 2012. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/ocft/2012TVPRA.pdf

7- The International Cocoa Initiative and the Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat / OECD (2011). Emerging good practice in combating the worst forms of child labour in West African cocoa growing communities. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/swac/publications/49069653.pdf

8- Ministry of Manpower, Youth & Employment (MMYE) (2007). Labour practices in cocoa production in Ghana (Pilot survey). National Programme for the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour in Cocoa (NPECLC). Retrieved from http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/addressing-child-labor/documents/MMYEPilotchildlaborsurvey.pdf

9- Zaney, G. D. (2012). Eliminating the worse forms of child labour in Ghana by 2016 – Can government reach the goal? Retrieved from http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/news/features/15319-eliminating-the-worse-forms-of-child-labour-in-ghana-by-2016can-government-reach-the-goal