Background: The care and protection of the estimated 143,000,000 orphaned and abandoned children (OAC) worldwide is of great importance to global policy makers and child service providers in low and middle income countries (LMICs), yet little is known about rates of child labour among OAC, what child and caregiver characteristics predict child engagement in work and labour, or when such work infers with schooling. This study examines rates and correlates of child labour among OAC and associations of child labour with schooling in a cohort of OAC in 5 LMICs.
Methods: The Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) study employed a two-stage random sampling survey methodology to identify 1480 single and double orphans and children abandoned by both parents ages 6-12 living in family settings in five LMICs: Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, and Tanzania. Regression models examined child and caregiver associations with: any work versus no work; and with working <21, 21-27, and 28+ hours during the past week, and child labour (UNICEF definition).
Results: The majority of OAC (60.7%) engaged in work during the past week, and of those who worked, 17.8% (10.5% of the total sample) worked 28 or more hours. More than one-fifth (21.9%; 13% of the total sample) met UNICEF's child labour definition. Female OAC and those in good health had increased odds of working. OAC living in rural areas, lower household wealth and caregivers not earning an income were associated with increased child labour. Child labour, but not working fewer than 28 hours per week, was associated with decreased school attendance.
Conclusions: One in seven OAC in this study were reported to be engaged in child labour. Policy makers and social service providers need to pay close attention to the demands being placed on female OAC, particularly in rural areas and poor households with limited income sources. Programs to promote OAC school attendance may need to focus on the needs of families as well as the OAC.