Uganda has two million child workers - report

Sep 27, 2013

At least two million children aged from five to 17 years are engaged in child labour, a new study reveals.

By Innocent Anguyo

At least two million children aged from five to 17 years are engaged in child labour, the first Child Labour Report released by the Uganda Bureau of Statistic (UBOS) reveals.

The report unveiled on Thursday at Statistics House in Kampala establishes that the two million child labourers accounted for 16% of the entire population of 11.5 million children in Uganda.

According to the report, child labour is among the major causes of child abuse and exploitation and fundamental violation of children rights.

The report further faults child labour for slowing down broader national poverty reduction and development efforts on top of being an obstacle to achieving universal education.

Sisters Esther and Catherine roast cassava at Ocorimongin Cattle market in 2011. PHOTO/Simon Naulele

“Children who are forced out of school to child labour to help supplement income of their families are denied the opportunity to acquire necessary knowledge and skills to aid them get decent employment in future leading to the poverty cycle,” read the report.

It indicated that about 4.3 million children in absolute terms were in work in 2011/2012.

Child labour was defined in the study as work that is mentally, physically, socially and morally harmful to children. It further includes work activities that interfere with children’s school attendance.

To that end, child labour, according to the work is when: children aged from five to eleven years are engaged in work; when children aged from 12 to 13 years work beyond 14 hours a week and when children aged between 14 and 17 years work at night or for more than 43 hours a week.

This boy has to shoulder the weight of a huge sack along the street.

Higher incidence in rural areas

Of the child workers, 52.5% were males while 47.5 were female. One in every four working children (26%) carried heavy loads at their respective workplaces, revealed the findings.

While presenting the report, Wilson Nyegenye, the principal statistician, Population and Social Statistics stated that children in rural areas were engaged in child labour more than their urban counterparts.

“Most of the activities that employ child labour such as agriculture seem to be in the rural areas,” he said. The level of children’s involvement in work was closely linked to area of residence.

This child has to endure the sweltering temperatures at a stone quarrying site alongside his mother.

Orphaned children

About 42% of children in the rural areas were in employment compared to the 17% in urban areas. At least 51% of the children in the central region and 40% in the western region were in employment, indicating that the two regions had the highest level of child employment.

Addressing the media on the report, Andrew Mukulu, the director, Population and Social Statistics said the orphaned children outnumbered non-orphans in child labour.

“Overall, children with both parents dead were more involved in employment than their counterparts in more than their counterparts in other ‘orphanhood’ statuses,” said the report.

Children who sell charcoal lighting sticks take some time off to rest on a street in Kampala. PHOTO/Maria Wamala

Most of the child labour, Mukulu noted, was employed in the primary sector encompassing agriculture, forestry and fishing. This sector accounts for 93% of the child labour in Uganda.

Kampala city emerged as the most notorious employer of child labour with 79% of city’s child workers engaged in the services industry.

Household chores, the study noted also formed an integral part of the daily life of a Ugandan child, with 65% of children engaged in household chores. Though, girls were more likely to perform household chores than boys and more children in rural areas undertook household chores (66%) than their urban peers (58%).

According to Godfrey Nabonyo, the manager communications and public relations UBOS, the report is informed by the National Labour Force and Child Activities Survey 2013, the first fully fledged national survey of its kind in Uganda.

Shafik Buyinza struggles with one of the logs at the charcoal burning site in 2011.

It was aimed at providing information on child labour, child labour characteristics and engagement of children in economic activities, schooling and non-economic activities.

The survey was launched in 2011. UBOS undertook the survey with support from International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The survey involved 7200 households from across Uganda. Interviews and literature review were the major methods of acquiring information. Children, authorities, parents and guardians were some of the respondents.

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