Effects of child labor in Zimbabwe, Sudan, Nigeria and Eritrea

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The term child labor simply signifies all forms of work and toil to be performed by the children with the aim of earning profit, productivity out of it. Hence, involvement of children in physical toil and labor comes under the definition of child labor. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has defined the individuals below the age of fifteen as children. Hence, forcing the children, which have not reached the age of fifteen, to do work in agricultural fields, industrial units, home industries or in any other form of labor has been declared as child labor. In other terms, the individuals’ entering the professional life as laborer before reaching the age of fifteen without completing one’s schooling is viewed to be child labor by the ILO.

Child Labor in Africa

Despite the reality that child labor exists in almost all parts and geographical zones of the world (Macionis, 2013), the African continent has been noticed as the area having highest proportion of child labor, where almost two fifth of the children have been reported to be pushed towards labor from the age of five or six to work in one field or the other (ILO, 2017). It clearly depicts the future prospects attributed to this ill-fated continent of the globe.

Causes of Child Labor in Africa

The researchers have defined various reasons behind the widespread child labor in the African continent. The first and foremost reason behind the involvement of children into labor is considered to be poverty and deprivation, which has eclipsed the progress, prosperity and growth of the inhabitants of Africa. Since the African people had been leading the life of backwardness, misery and deprivation for the last several centuries, they had been the target of whims and wishes of the European and Asian powers for centuries (Yacovone, 2004). History depicts how the people of Africa were captured and brought to America, Asia and Europe from 16th century onward as slaves, because of their being deprived of proper skills and ammunition to protect themselves from the outer threats (Zaidi, 2016). Besides, the Africans also lacked food, clothing and other creature comforts essential for leading a peaceful life (Harsch, 2001). As a result, the Africans appear to be unable to provide their children with proper food, clothing and education, and thus the children are sent to fields and industries to work at there with the aim of earning money for themselves and their parents (Harsch, 2001). High crime rate in African societies and scarcity of resources including clean drinking water and food also tend to push the Africans to send their children to work to earn bread for the family.

Effects of Child Labor on Children

There is no second opinion in the fact that child labor has left drastic impact on the life, health and happiness of the children of Africa (Harsch, 2001). One of the most significant effects includes that the children get deprived of their childhood, and instead of enjoying their childhood while playing with their siblings, peers and friends, they are pushed to go to work for earning bread for them and their family at such a small age (Andvig et al., 2001).  In addition, children remain unable to seek formal education from school, and add their share to the already least educated continent of the world (Andvig et al., 2001). Moreover, the children dragged to labor during their adolescent years have also been noticed to be experiencing deficiency in physical and mental faculties due to spending their hours in labor in their growth years (Harsch, 2001). Furthermore, lack of sufficient food and nourishment cause illness and attack of fatal diseases among the African subjects (Macionis, 2013). Hence, parents and political authorities are equally responsible for the pathetic and pitiable condition of the children working as laborers and workers. Since a large proportion of the African parents rely upon their children as source of income, they have large families in order to use their children as their workforce. Therefore, Africa has highest fertility and population growth rate across the world (Weeks, 2011).

Since the African people appear to be having belief in quantity rather than quality of life and children, every African family has several children, which are exploited by the parents and society as labor force. As a result, many of the inhabitants of African countries look leading the life of deprivation and poverty, and hence present the scenario of the age of slavery even in this era of technological advancement and spatial revolution (Zaidi, 2016). The children in Sudan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Nigeria are inflicted with hard and severe toil, where they work in fields and factories from dawn to dusk, against which they are paid very little amount of money (Bérenger & Verdier-Chouchane, 2015). In addition, the children in some areas are offered just small amount of food and edibles against their hard work by their employers and managers (Harsch, 2001).

Sociologists and criminologists have defined the impact of child labor and exploitation on society. Siegel (2011) is of the opinion that extreme poverty and deprivation lead the individuals to commit theft, robbery and other blue collar crimes, while child abuse and forced labor tend to make the children violent, aggressive and law breakers. In the same way, sexual exploitation inflicted upon the children may cause psychological turmoil and deterioration of the children or may turn them revengeful and even rapists in their grown years (Siegel, 2011). Hence, the children exploited by the adults in labor force or sexual abuse have higher tendencies of becoming criminals in their later years (Siegel, 2011).

Nature and Types of Child Labor in Africa

In some parts of Africa, the children are allowed to work at home or in the factories and agricultural lands adjacent to their homes. It is particularly the case with Nigeria and Sudan (Bérenger & Verdier-Chouchane, 2015). These types of work include the labor associated with handicrafts, home industry, sewing, knitting and manufacturing of the clothes and small items of everyday use. Despite the reality that the children belong to both the genders serve as the part of this type of child labor, girls have higher proportion of working from home and in fields as workers in Sudan (Bérenger & Verdier-Chouchane, 2015). Some of these toils could be detrimental to the health and fitness of the children. For instance, working in factories and digging works in an unhygienic environment that is harmful for lungs, kidneys and heart, serves as harmful for the adolescents and even adults (Andvig et al., 2001). In the same way, rendering services in mining and stone crushing tasks is not only painful and tougher than the physical capacities of children, but also tends to ruin the health of the young workers (Andvig et al., 2001).

Somehow, some of the labors performed by the children are milder in nature; it include working at home or offices as cleaners, helpers, cooks and vendors do not come under the category of severe labor or hard work. Nevertheless, involvement of children in toil rather than studying in schools is completely an unjust affair, which cannot be permitted by a welfare state to be performed or executed by the adolescents (ILO, 2017). It is particularly the case with the child labor in Cocoa Industry of West Africa, where children are hired to work in chocolate manufacturing factories. Therefore, the child labor in Africa is regarded to be a new form of slavery (Bales, 2004).

The studies demonstrate that girls appear to be major victim of child labor in Sudan and Nigeria, partly because of gender discrimination prevailing in these African countries (Bérenger & Verdier-Chouchane, 2015). Besides, girls have been reported as the more frequent victim of sexual exploitation and illicit labor. It is particularly the case with Zimbabwe and Eritrea (The Herald, 2012). Sexual exploitation of the children and their misuse in severe and illicit labor work is partly because of the breaking of family units in these countries. Since the children get deprived of shelter and protection in wake of family break up, there are higher chances of their turning victim of severe types of labors at the hands of exploiters (The Herald, 2012). These severe types of child labor include working in agricultural fields, mining, sex workers, laborers in illicit activities and hazardous work (The Herald, 2012).

Policy and Plans to overcome Child Labor

Identical with rest of the world, the governments of the four under-examination African countries have also devised policies to prevent child labor from their respective geographical jurisdictions. The child labor prevention law of 2015 was introduced by the government, but its enforcement has been rioted by the corrupt political and justice system. The government and social sector in Nigeria strictly condemns worst kind of child labor. However, due to existence of class discrimination and massive corruption, no one produces evidence against the persons committing the crime of forced child labor and other exploitations of the adolescents at the hands of gangs of crime mafia and their patronizing by the influential politicians and civilian and military bureaucrats. The state policy against worst child labor is also in vogue in Eritrea, though the law enforcing agencies seldom find any witnesses to produce evidence against the exploitations of children (DOL, 2015). Similarly, the governments of Sudan and Zimbabwe have also devised policies for curbing and condemning worst child labor, though the same has been being witnessed under the supervision of corrupt law enforcing agencies by the crime mafia of the countries.

Law regulating Child Labor

The studies reveal that all of the four under-examination African countries have signed the Worst Form of Child Labour 1999, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, and the ILO Minimum Age Convention 1973 (The Herald, 2012). All these international laws strictly prevent child labor of any type before the individuals’ reaching the age of fifteen years. Besides, Nigeria and Sudan have also introduced their state laws, which prohibit child labor in their respective jurisdictions. It is particularly the case with the prevention of worst form of labor including sexual exploitation, mental or physical torture at workplace and employing of children in any illicit work or activity. However, observing of the statutes of these conventions look confined to theories instead of their implementations in practice. Therefore, child labor of one kind or the other appears to be in vogue in most parts of these African countries.

South Sudan has also introduced a legal framework, which strictly prevents worst forced child labor prevalent in the country for the last several decades. However, still more efforts are required to be taken for the implementation of these laws in the country (BILA, 2016). In South Sudan, less than one third children of age from 10-15 attend their schools, while 69% of the children are pushed into labor of one kind or the other (BLA, 2016). Out of these children, 60% of them are associated with agricultural sector, while 38% of them are rendering services at home or in home industry or other social sectors (BLA, 2016).

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Being one of the most advanced countries of Africa, the situation in Nigeria appears to be somewhat better. Nevertheless, the chaos created by the terrorist organization with the name of Boko Haram has led to deterioration of the socio-political situation of the country (Zaidi, 2014). Somehow, situation in Nigeria looks improving with change of political leadership in the country in 2016. Since modern education is popular and literacy rate is high in Nigeria in comparison with rest of the continent, worst form of child labor is somewhat lesser in the country. The law enforcing agencies of Nigeria prosecute the individuals indulged into worst kind of child labor in the country (Andvig et al., 2001). However, it is still prevalent in the areas that experience political unrest and influence of extremists and terrorists.

The situation of child labor is reported to be worst in Zimbabwe and Eritrea. According to the UN report, Eritrea serves as the center of tortured and forced child labor, where worst labor is also observed across the country. Since totalitarian type of government rules over the country, corruption, nepotism and misuse of power can be found in all social institutions of Eritrea. Therefore, laws seldom come into force against child labor and other criminal activities existing in this poor and poorly governed country (BILA, 2016); almost similar state of affairs has also been being witnessed in Zimbabwe under dictatorial governmental system of Robert Mugabe. Therefore, the laws remain ineffective in respect of announcing punishments to the law-breakers and corrupt elements of the country. Consequently, monitoring system and surveillance is somewhat weak and ineffective in these countries.


To conclude, it becomes evident that the political authorities of the under-examination African states have failed to curb the child labor and even worst child labor. It is partly because of the influence of corrupt political elements and bureaucrats, patronizing of which provide the criminals with the opportunity of committing worst child labor in these countries. There certainly prevail state and international laws to prevent child labor; however, main thing is the implementation of the same for elimination of child labor from these countries. Besides, the world should also add its share by providing the poor countries of Africa with financial support and food, so that child labor  could be decreased in Africa.

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  1. Andvig, Jens Chr., Canagarajah, Sudharshan., & Kielland, Anne. (2001). Issues in Child Labor in Africa. Africa Region Human Development Working Paper Series, pp. 5-38. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/51ef/f8f6c2f0ad12358f423d722e9f37e57b3931.pdf
  2. Bales, Kevin. (2004). Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  3. Bérenger, Valérie & Verdier-Chouchane, Audrey. (2015). Child Labour and Schooling in South Sudan and Sudan: Is There a Gender Preference? No. 230, December, pp. 4-32. Retrieved from https://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/WPS_No_230_Child_Labour_and_Schooling_in_South_Sudan_and_Sudan.pdf
  4. Findings of the Worst Forms of Child Labor. (2014). Eritrea: No Advancement—Efforts made but Complicit. Pp. 1-6. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/2014TDA/eritrea.pdf
  5. Harsch, Earnest. (2001). Child labour rooted in Africa’s poverty Campaigns launched against traffickers and abusive work. Africa’s Children, pp. 1-3. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/africarenewal/subjindx/childpdf/childlab.pdf
  6. International Labor Office. (2017). Child Labor in Africa. InFocus Programme on Promoting the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Pp. 1-2. Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_decl_fs_37_en.pdf
  7. Macionis, John J. (2011). Sociology. 14th Edition. New York: Prentice Hall.
  8. Mail & Guardian. (June 09, 2015). Eritrea ‘tortured, enforced child labour’ – UN report. Retrieved from https://mg.co.za/article/2015-06-09-un-report-says-eritrea-committed-widespread-abuses
  9. Siegel, Larry J. (2011). Criminology. New York: Cengage Learning.
  10. The Herald. (March 21, 2012). Child Labor in Zimbabwe. Retrieved from http://www.herald.co.zw/child-labour-in-zimbabwe/
  11. United States Department of Labor. (2015). Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports: South Sudan. Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/south-sudan
  12. Weeks, John R. (2011). Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues. 9th Edition. New York: Prentice-Hall.
  13. Yacovone, Donald. (2004). Freedom’s Journey: African American Voices of the Civil War. New York: Chicago Review Press.
  14. Zaidi, Mujtaba Haider. (2016). Veto Oligarchy: the Fittest Deserve Supremacy. Lahore: Dastavez Publisher. ISBN: 978-969-8422-29-5.
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