HIV/AIDS and child labour

Literature Reviews
ILO, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)
75 p.
Periodical title
Paper No. 6

As the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa grows in scope and intensity, the situation of children has become more precarious. Advances in the well-being of children in terms of social welfare and health, achieved over several decades, are being compromised. One significant change has been the impact of HIV/AIDS on child labour, especially in its worst forms. Where children are orphaned by the death of one or both parents, general well-being - including opportunities for schooling, proper nutrition and health care - is adversely affected. Given the impact of HIV/AIDS, many children are forced to work to assist, in addition to themselves and their siblings, their families and their guardians. The ILO's International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) commissioned rapid assessments (RAs) in four sub-Saharan countries - South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe - in order to better understand the linkages between the HIV/AIDS pandemic and child labour. This paper synthesizes the findings from those studies and others concerned with the impact of HIV/AIDS on children. Section 2 focuses on how HIV/AIDS has exacerbated prevailing social and economic inequalities and conditions of poverty. It looks at how the situation among children has worsened. HIV/AIDS has intensified the economic factors that push children into the labour market, including the impoverishment of families and the death of one or both parents. The epidemics have also made long-term opportunities for decent lives more remote for hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of children in sub-Saharan Africa. Educational prospects for many affected children are cut short, while some kinds of work performed by children increase the risk of HIV/AIDS infection. Finally, this section describes national policy and programme responses to HIV/AIDS and how these have sought to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic among children. Section 3 incorporates the major findings of the RAs within this wider analytical framework. Especially important is the concrete evidence of linkages between HIV/AIDS and child labour: many working children identified in the surveys are, in fact, orphans, and they work because of economic needs arising from the impact of HIV/AIDS. Household poverty - including recent impoverishment caused by HIV/AIDS - is the major factor contributing to child labour in each of the four countries where the RAs were conducted. Among girls in particular, the pandemic curtails educational and future employment opportunities since, to reduce household costs, these children are usually the first to be withdrawn from school. Section 4 summarizes the main findings from the country RAs. It also presents recommendations for policy and programme initiatives, future research and international cooperation in addressing the linked issues of HIV/AIDS and child labour. It proposes priority initiatives, including the need to address the sexually exploitative role of men in increasing the risk among children of HIV/AIDS infection. Another priority is expanding both practical job training opportunities among children and job creation opportunities among youth.

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