Many children combine work in cocoa with attending school – in fact, data from the 2018/9 NORC survey shows that in Côte d’Ivoire, children in child labour were slightly more likely to attend school than those not in child labour. ICI’s new report explores how work and school interact, through examining the links between child labour, school attendance and child wellbeing. 

The analysis draws on data collected from 2,274 children from cocoa-growing households in Côte d’Ivoire. It examines the relationship between child labour, schooling and wellbeing, with the aim of improving how we identify children at risk of harm and how best to support them.

The concept of wellbeing is central to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health: “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,”. In this study, wellbeing was used as a proxy for children’s physical and mental health.

Key findings

This observational study shows a positive relationship between school attendance and wellbeing and a negative relationship between child labour and well-being. Children in child labour, those working longer hours and those not in school had lower levels of child wellbeing, while children in school had consistently higher wellbeing scores.

The results highlight the protective effect that education can have on children’s wellbeing. Among children in child labour, children who regularly attended school had consistently higher wellbeing scores than those who did not. However, the more hours a child worked, the weaker the protective effect of school and the lower their overall wellbeing.

These findings clearly demonstrate how the accumulation of household chores, work in agriculture and other work, places a burden on children, which is associated with lower levels of wellbeing. This is backed up by a body of causal evidence, showing how child labour can harm children’s development, health, education and opportunities as adult.

The results also underline the importance of education in cocoa-growing communities. A fundamental child right in itself, education is also as a means of protecting children from harm to their development caused by child labour, as well as by other forms of abuse and neglect.

Where next?

The results of this study emphasise the importance of a holistic view of the child within the context they are working to better understand the severity of their situation. They have implications for the identification of at-risk children, as well as to the types of support provided to prevent and address child labour.

Identification of at-risk children

  • Granular data is helpful to understand each child’s unique situation (school attendance, age, gender, family situation, hours worked).
  • All work can be harmful, not just work in agriculture (the total hours worked on weekdays counts – i.e. the accumulation of household chores, work in agriculture and other work).

Support to prevent and address child labour:

  • Education helps protect children from the negative influence of other factors on child wellbeing, as well as being a fundamental child right in itself. Efforts to provide access to quality education, to ensure children remain in school, and to limit the number of hours children spend working are key.

Monitoring progress and measuring impact

  • Wellbeing is a valuable outcome to measure in impact evaluations, and the WHO-5 wellbeing scale appears well adapted to this context.
  • Understanding the number of hours children work is challenging, but is worthwhile if this information can be used to better protect children from harm

Read the full report and view the report presentation here.