Responsible finance and child labour: quo vadis microfinance?
Despite a remarkable downward trend since 2000, child labour remains a reality for 168 million children worldwide (from 245 million in 2000). Of those children, more than half are engaged in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety, and moral development. These latest statistics from the International Labour Organization illustrate a pressing concern for today’s world and call for integrated efforts to tackle them. This article proposes a framework for development practitioners and policymakers to help them design interventions with a particular focus on financial service providers. We briefly describe root causes of child labour – including demand, social norms, access, costs and quality of education, vulnerability and risk exposure, and income poverty – and then propose innovative interventions that financial service providers can engage in to address, where possible, each of the causes. The article then presents evidence from recent experimental research in Pakistan which shows the significant positive effect that an innovative health and accidental death insurance product had on reducing child labour. Further evidence from experimental research with an associated school fees loan and an awareness campaign in Nigeria, and an integrated training package and sensitization programme in Mali, illustrate that the impact of interventions on child labour, education, and poverty are not always straightforward.