Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

Children and the Youth in the Labour Process


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Through the 2004 Child and Youth Studies Institute, African researchers are being invited to contribute to a better understanding of the sources, dynamics and consequences of the exploitation of the labour power of children and the youth in contemporary Africa. Some of the earliest evidence of the exploitation to which children and the youth are being subjected was brought to light by the phenomenon of street urchins and alienated urban youth who came in different categories but were all uniformly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by adults, including as beggars in organised syndicates, manual labourers, casual workers, apprentices, sexual objects, and street hawkers. Subsequently, evidence was collected which indicated that the systematic recruitment and use of children and young persons in "sweatshops" which was once thought to be a phenomenon limited to the export-oriented countries of East Asia and Latin America was very much present in Africa as producers of various consumer goods sought to limit their production costs, increase their competitiveness, and widen their profit margin. Furthermore, it soon came to light that a booming niche trade in the labour of children and the youth in plantation agriculture was taking place in various parts of the continent. This trade in children’s labour was at the origin of the transborder trafficking of young persons; the traffic has been boosted in recent times by the booming informal sector trade in domestic labour and involving the recruitment of children and young persons from one country to work as househelps in other countries under conditions that some have categorised as literally equivalent to modern-day slavery. The difficult economic conditions prevailing across the continent, coupled with the expansion in the boundaries of poverty and informalisation, major incidences of violent conflict, the increased problem of refugees and displaced persons, the growth of the tourist sector, and the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic have contributed to the accentuated vulnerability of children and the youth to exploitation in the labour process. Attention has been drawn to the emergence of the phenomenon of child-headed families and households and the role which this plays in the increased deployment of children and the youth into the labour process.

These developments constitute important elements around which participants in the 2004 Session of the Child and Youth Studies Institute are being invited to focus their attention with a view to deepening knowledge about the contemporary dynamics of the exploitation of the labour power of children and the youth, as well as the range of abuses associated with the process. In doing so, participants will be encouraged to undertake a critical assessment of the literature that has been produced on children and the youth in the labour process; contribute in a substantive way to questioning existing theoretical/conceptual approaches and developing new insights; marshal new empirical evidence; provide fresh re-interpretations of existing data; address the methodological fuzziness that characterises much of the research that has been undertaken on the exploitation of children and the youth in the labour process; bring a historical perspective to bear on the role of children in the labour process; weigh the economic costs and benefits of eliminating child labour; explore the directions in which tradition has evolved as it pertains to the place of children and the youth in the production and reproduction of livelihood; identify the sources of the susceptibility of children and the youth to exploitation; pin-point the international conventions that pertain to the involvement of children and the youth in the labour process, what they mean in practice, the developmental dilemmas which they pose and how these dilemmas could be overcome; and sharpen their own research interventions through the production of publishable reports on a given aspect of the theme of the 2004 session. In other to assist the participants in the realisation of these goals, the resources of the CODESRIA Centre for Documentation and Information (CODICE), as well as the expertise of invited resource persons will be made available to them.