Child Labor and Schooling in Ghana

39 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Sudharshan Canagarajah

Sudharshan Canagarajah

World Bank - Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM); Europe and Central Asia Region

Harold Coulombe

World Bank

Date Written: November 1997


To improve human capital and reduce the incidence of child labor in Ghana, the country's school systems should reduce families' schooling costs, adapt to the constraints on schooling in rural areas (where most children must work at least part-time), and provide better education (more relevant to the needs of the labor market). If these things are done, more families may decide that schooling is a viable option as opposed to child labor for their children.

Child labor is a widespread, growing problem in the developing world. About 250 million of the world`s children work, nearly half of them full-time. Child labor (regular participation in the labor force to earn a living or supplement household income) prevents children from participating in school.

One constraint on Ghanas economic growth has been inadequate human capital development. According to 1992 data for Ghana, one girl in three and one boy in four does not attend school. The figures are worse in rural areas.

Canagarajah and Coulombe studied the dynamics of how households decided whether to send children 7 through 14 to school or to work, using household survey data for 1987D92. They do not address the issue of street kids, which does not imply that they are less important than the others.

Unlike child labor in Asia, most child labor in Africa, especially Ghana, is unpaid work in family agricultural enterprises. Of the 28 percent of children engaged in child labor, more than two-thirds were also going to school. Of all children between 7 and 14, about 90 percent helped with household chores.

Boys and girls tend to do different types of work. Girls do more household chores while boys work in the labor force.

The data do not convincingly show, as most literature claims, that poverty is the main cause of child labor. But poverty is significantly correlated with the decision to send children to school, and there is a significant negative relationship between going to school and working. Increased demand for schooling is the most effective way to reduce child labor and ensure that Ghana's human capital is stabilized.

The high cost of schooling and the poor quality and irrelevance of education has also pushed many children into work.

And family characteristics play a big role in the childs decision to work or go to school. The father's education has a significant negative effect on child labor; the effect is stronger on girls than on boys. So adult literacy could indirectly reduce the amount of child labor.

This paper - a product of the Human Development Technical Family, Africa Region - is a background paper for World Bank Economic and Sector Work on Ghana: Labor Markets and Poverty.

Suggested Citation

Canagarajah, R. Sudharshan and Canagarajah, R. Sudharshan and Coulombe, Harold, Child Labor and Schooling in Ghana (November 1997). Available at SSRN:

R. Sudharshan Canagarajah (Contact Author)

World Bank - Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) ( email )

Washington, DC 20433
United States

Europe and Central Asia Region ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States
202 473 4458 (Phone)
202 614 0912 (Fax)

Harold Coulombe

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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