In Chad, 87 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. This contributes to the high prevalence of child labor, something for which Chad is infamous. Child labor is a controversial and multi-faceted issue, and these 10 facts about child labor in Chad show that the issue is complex and in need of a solution.
10 Facts about Child Labor in Chad
- A majority of all children are working. 48.8 percent of children ages 5-14 work full time. This percentage is among the highest in African countries. When added to the percentage of children who attend both school and work, the percentage goes up to 77.2.
- Nearly half of Chad’s population is ages 0-14. One reason why child labor in Chad is so prominent is that there are significantly more children than adults. With children under 15 years old making up 48.12 percent of the population, there is pressure to work in order to support one’s family.
- Child labor occurs in multiple sectors. Child labor occurs in the agricultural, urban and service industries. Children as young as 6-years-old typically work as herders for livestock, and as they get older, begin to perform other duties like chopping wood, fishing and harvesting crops. In the urban and service industries, children work in carpentry, mining and street vending. The Ministry of Labor permits light work in agriculture for children at least 12 years old, but this law can be exploited due to its lack of specificity.
- Education is not accessible. Another reason there are so many instances of child labor in Chad is because quality education is inaccessible. Despite the fact that the government mandates free and compulsory education up until the age of 14, only 37.9 percent of students complete primary school. Many schools require an additional payment for school-related fees, and some families cannot afford them. Additionally, there have been teacher strikes, decreasing the number of open schools in Chad altogether. The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) has been attempting to improve the access and quality of education in Chad since 2017, and future data will show how the program is going to affect school-age working children in Chad.
- Children are forced to be soldiers. Chadian children who live in Internally Displaced Persons sites are the most popular army recruits. Sometimes, they are kidnapped by army recruiters, but other times, they join willingly to escape horrible conditions and lack of education within the IDP site. In 2007, up to 10,000 children may have been used as soldiers in the conflict between Chad and its opposition groups. The government of Chad admits that it has no policy when it comes to the recruitment of children for the army, and a UNICEF program to remove children from military groups failed due to underfunding.
- Human trafficking worsens child labor. As a result of trafficking, children are sold and forced to work away from their families, sometimes even begging in the streets for money. One of the worst instances of child labor and trafficking occurs when boys called mahadjirine travel to Koranic schools to get an education, but they are forced to work and return all of their profits to their fraudulent teachers. The Chadian government criminalizes labor trafficking and began a procedure to identify and prosecute offenders, but its success only lasted briefly. The number of arrests and convictions for labor traffickers decreased and then remained stagnant only two years after the initial implementation.
- Chad’s respect for children’s rights is ranked as worst in the world. The Realization of Children’s Rights Index grades each individual country on a scale of 1-10 on how much the country respects children’s rights based on statistics of child mortality, child labor, poverty, education and other issues that affect children’s lives. Chad is the lowest on the list of 196 countries with a score of 0.05 out of 10. The highest country, Liechtenstein, scores a 9.42 out of 10. This means that every other country in the world has more policies in place to protect the rights of children.
- Nearly half of children ages 15-17 work in hazardous conditions. Despite the fact that Chad’s minimum working age is 14 years old, boys and girls ages 15-17 are counted in child labor statistics because of dangerous working conditions. 42 percent of working 15-17-year-olds deal with circumstances that can be physically and mentally harmful such as extensive work hours, working underground, working with heavy machinery and abuse.
- Child labor correlates with the prevalence of malnutrition. As instances of child labor increase, malnutrition becomes more likely. In a study of multiple developing countries that experience child labor, it was found that in countries with only 10 percent of children working, malnutrition affected up to 50 percent. For Chad, a country where more than half of children work, malnutrition could affect up to 70 percent of children.
- International groups are working to prevent child labor. The International Initiative to End Child Labor is an organization that is committed to ending child labor in countries like Chad. The group educates communities on what kinds of child work are considered acceptable or unacceptable, what the worst forms of child labor are and what working conditions are appropriate for young workers. The IIECL has been working towards the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labor since 1998.
These 10 facts about child labor in Chad demonstrate the consequences of child labor and the need for action. If child labor is eradicated in Chad, the rest of Africa and the world could take notice and begin to address other countries with child labor issues as well.
– Katherine Desrosiers