Child Work in Zambia: A Comparative Study of Survey Instruments

By Blunch, Niels-Hugo; Dar, Amit et al. | International Labour Review, April 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Child Work in Zambia: A Comparative Study of Survey Instruments


Blunch, Niels-Hugo, Dar, Amit, Guarcello, Lorenzo, Lyon, Scott, et al., International Labour Review


The World Bank's multi-purpose household surveys and the ILO's

SIMPOC surveys are particularly important instruments for generating information on child work in developing countries.1 Data sets from these surveys, based on comprehensive interviews with a stratified sample of households, highlight links between child work and a range of factors - e.g. schooling, family structure, income levels, parental education and the child's sex - with a degree of detail and clarity not found in most other survey instruments (Myers, 1999).

But how do the results generated by the World Bank and ILO survey instruments compare? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of each as a source of information on child work? And to what extent are the survey instruments complementary or, alternatively, overlapping? These questions, which this article attempts to answer, have important implications for the design and implementation of future surveys on child work - and for ensuring that the scarce resources available for research on child work are allocated efficiently.

Zambia provides a good case-study framework for comparing the ILO and World Bank survey instruments in a specific national context: a World Bank Priority Survey2 and an ILO SIMPOC survey were conducted only one year apart - in 1998 and 1999, respectively. In other words, any discrepancies in the survey findings are likely to be due to methodological differences rather than longitudinal changes in the actual child work situation.

The purpose of this article is to contribute to broader efforts aimed at strengthening survey instruments and improving research coordination in the field of child work. Specifically, what the article looks at is the degree to which the findings on child work are consistent across the two Zambia surveys and therefore have similar implications for policy. To that end, it focuses on the 5-14 years age group: the upper bound of 14 years is consistent with the ILO's Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), which states that the minimum age for admission to employment or work should not be less than 15 years (Article 2.3).3 The lower bound of five years is considered to be the minimum age at which children are physically able to perform work in most contexts.

The remainder of this article is structured as follows. The opening and second sections, respectively, present a brief overview of the Zambian economy and some background information on the two surveys. The following four sections then look at indicators in four areas that are critical to understanding child work, namely: child activity status; work characteristics and conditions; the health impact of work; and household expenditures. On each of these issues, the two surveys are compared both in terms of how key variables are constructed and in terms of results generated. The seventh section looks at the measurement of key correlates and determinants of child work, assessing the degree to which the two surveys lead to similar conclusions. A final section offers a few concluding remarks.

Brief overview of the Zambian economy -

As in most sub-Saharan economies, agriculture accounts for a substantial share of GDP in Zambia (nearly a quarter in 1999). However, the Zambian economy is heavily dependent on the mining of copper, cobalt and zinc for foreign currency. The contraction of food production since independence in 1964 was exacerbated during the 1970s by declining copper prices, oil price shocks and the Government's economic policy stance. The resulting economic decline has been catastrophic, with per capita income falling almost 5 per cent annually between 1974 and 1990 (World Bank, 2002a). Government expenditure decreased, leaving fewer funds for health and education in particular. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has also exacted a heavy toll on the country: it is one of the main reasons why Zambia has experienced a decline in life expectancy at birth in recent years, from 45. …

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