Factors influencing decisions to use child labour: a case study of poor households in Kabul

Factors influencing decisions to use child labour: a case study of poor households in Kabul

Factors influencing the decision to send children to work in Kabul

How do households decide whether to put children into work? This case study set in Kabul explores the processes through which poor households make decisions about whether or not to put children into work. By focusing on poor households, which both do and do not use child labour as part of their livelihood portfolios, the study moves the debate beyond poverty as a primary reason for children working. The author draws out the range of influencing factors that seem to differentiate poor households, which do use child labour from those which do not.

The paper highlights how poverty and its related factors clearly have a role to play in forming the context within which households make decisions about labour allocation across their members. However, other factors such as understandings of livelihood risks, available responses to these risks and assessments of the social and economic costs and benefits of education and work for boys and girls, all enter into the decision-making process.

Key findings from this study include:

  • irregularity of work for adults, low earnings and high expenditures on basic  needs, particularly housing and fuel, are key contextual factors
  • debt is also common across the case households
  • the absence or lack of a male earner leads households to seek alternative ways to access income
  • gender norms constrain choices about how to allocate the labour available to the household
  • non-child labour households were more likely to have had direct experiences or knowledge of others whose educated children had been successful in achieving a secure livelihood
  • decisions about having children work can be conflictual.