Academic journal article Demographic Research

Health Consequences of Child Labour in Bangladesh

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Health Consequences of Child Labour in Bangladesh

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

While increased attention is being paid to the school performance of child workers, the effects of work activities on their health have not received the same attention. Identifying the health effects of child labour is indispensable because children's health is directly related to their future economic prospects and to their welfare in their adult life.3 It is also important from a policy perspective to identify the hazardous types of child labour in which the majority of working children are engaged.4 Children working in hazardous jobs are subject to acute physical injuries and illnesses, and this figure is not insignificant. In 2000, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated that 170 million of the total 350 million working children around the world were working in hazardous jobs that had adverse effects on their safety, health, and moral development (Huebler 2006). This dismal picture is remarkably significant in developing countries where children working under hazardous conditions account for up to 10 percent of all work-related injuries (Ashagrie 1997). To date, existing evidence on the health injuries to or illnesses among working children in developing countries is fairly limited and the results, are mixed, yet it supports the hypothesis that child labour is associated with poor health (Guarcello, Lyon, and Rosati 2004; Wolffand Maliki 2008). However, work-related injuries and fatalities to children are not confined to less-developed countries. For example, there is evidence that children working on farms in the United States often experience agricultural-related injuries (see Fassa 2003 for more details).

A number of studies also examine the effect of child labour on health using objective measures of children's health that are known to be determined early in an individual's life, such as weight-for-age (O'Donnell, Rosati, and Doorslaer 2005), height-for-age (Kana, Phoumin, and Seiichi 2010; O'Donnell, Rosati, and Doorslaer 2005), body-mass index (BMI)5 (Beegle, Dehejia, and Gatti 2009; Kana, Phoumin, and Seiichi 2010), and height growth (Beegle, Dehejia, and Gatti 2009; O'Donnell, Rosati, and Doorslaer 2005). All of these studies, however, find either little or no correlation between child labour and anthropometric indicators.

Empirical literature also presents some evidence of the positive impact of child labour on the living standards of families and, hence, on the health of the child (Smith 1999; Steckel 1995). This is consistent with the literature that suggest that a disproportionate share of total household income will be allocated to maintain the strength and health of the most productive members, whether the household is modelled as a single decision-making unit or as a collection of bargaining agents (Pitt, Rosenzweig, and Hassan 1990). In addition, any negative impact of child labour on an individual's health may be obscured by selection of the healthiest individuals into work (see O'Donnell, Rosati, and Doorslaer 2005 for details).

In this paper, we focus on subjective health assessments by the child or by a parent on behalf of a child as we seek to estimate the contemporaneous effect of child labour on children's self-reported injuries or illnesses.6 Though self-reports of health are subjected to considerable over-, under-, and misreporting, depending on various circumstances there is evidence that self-reported health is closely correlated with underlying morbidity, and that such self-reporting is a good predictor of future mortality (Idler and Benyamini 1997; Kaplan and Camacho 1983). Moreover, self-reports of health in general have their own distinct scientific value. For instance, it has been shown such reports contain information on health status even after conditioning on objective measures of health (Idler and Benyamini 1997). Thus, results from "subjective' measures should not be viewed as some lower order of evidence. …

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