19 July 2013

Child labor is rife in Madagascar

Just wanted to call attention to this gripping statistic published (apparently) by the International Labor Organization.

According to the Shanghai Daily, in an article about rates of child labor in the mining industry,
"The latest data published by the ILO bureau showed that 28 percent of children in Madagascar ranging from five years old to 17 are working."
I think the stat looks both startling and a bit fudgey - you aren't supposed to work before you are 18 but I bet that stat would be quite different if you looked at those less than 16 yrs. Nevertheless it is a major issue here. It is more than common to see kids in rice paddies, or acting as nannies for their siblings, fetching water and taking care of the house chores, especially young girls.

Child labor has long been a concern for those looking at demographics in the developing world. Madagascar has an incredibly high population growth rate of almost 3% (ranking in the 15 highest growth rates in the world) and 50% of the population is under 18 yrs of age, according to the UNFPA (which also highlights the issues of child marriage). Many economists would link this to the tradeoffs of having more hands to work fields and do chores (especially during times of labor shortage like when the rice fields need to be prepared and planted) versus the costs of feeding and educating them - a very rationalist view, to be sure. The more appealing education looks, the less kids people tend to have. And the more perceived opportunities are available for high school and college grads, the more people are willing to pay to educate their children. With few high schools and colleges in the country, even though school fees themselves are kept low, the costs of sending kids to live in a far off city are not to be scoffed at here.

High child marriage and lack of opportunity (both for education and stable employment) equates to lots of kids who are forced to work - pretty much as simple as that. Of course, there are all sorts of complex cultural and global geo-political reasons why these issues continue to persist.

So though I am certainly no expert on the issue, I find myself drawn time and again, through my concerns with conservation and livelihood, to the issue of child labor. Just another example of how intertwined our social and environmental concerns are.

Anyone have more info on this?