Types of Labor
24% of children are involved in the fishing industry in the whole parish of Musoli. However certain types of labor are more common in particular villages, with, 100% of the children living in Musoli Beach working either on the boats themselves, or in the process of cleaning, drying, or selling the fish.
20% of children overall are employed exclusively cutting sugarcane, while 8% cut cane as well as work in the stone quarry. 38% of children interviewed are working in the stone quarry alone. Again, this industry is very village-specific, with 91% of the children interviewed in Ntinkulu working at the quarry.
The remaining 10% are involved in making papyrus mats and cultivating others’ land for pay.
In addition to this work which is done for pay (either cash or in-kind) many children also help their families with food cultivation, and a variety of household tasks such as gathering firewood and fetching water. These activities however were not measured in this study, as these activities are not considered to be ‘work’ in Ugandan culture, but are a normal part of helping out with household chores.
Description of the Labor Force
36% of the workers were female, with the remaining 64% male. However this survey focused on the main industries of fishing, sugarcane cutting, and quarry work, and did not cover restaurant/bar work or commercial sex work (which involve larger number of girls). It was also reported that a number of girls are sent to larger cities to work as domestic servants, or are given to early marriage.
The average age of working children surveyed was 12.7 years, although the true average age is likely to be lower, because perfectly random sampling was challenging due to the difficulty of obtaining interviews with the youngest workers. The average age was higher for men than for women, with the average male age at 13.1 and the average female 11.9.
93% of children are paid in cash, with the remaining 7% being paid primarily with fish. The median daily wage is 1,000 Ugandan Shillings, which at the current exchange rate is equivalent to USD 50 cents. This is approximately enough money to buy one small meal each day. The bottom 25% of children earn half of that, or USD 25 cents each day.
The average work day for most of these children is 8 hours; however 25% work more than 9.5 hours each day. Half of the children surveyed worked for 5 or more days each week, with 28% working 7 days. This percentage would be even higher if one did not count the significant number of children who work exclusively on the weekends.
70% of working children in the Parish have experienced serious injuries through their labor, including cuts, head injuries, vision problems, chest infections, near drowning, and water-born parasites. According to an elected official in Musoli Beach, one of the main fishing areas in the Parish, an average of 2 children a year drown, and 1 may be eaten by a crocodile. Quarry owners report that at least one person a year is killed due to falling stones, a fact which indicates the hazardous conditions that children are working under.
The children use no protective gear whatsoever, even shoes to protect their feet from the sharp stones of the quarry or cuts from the sugarcane.
Why Children Work
68% of children reported that they worked to meet basic needs, such as purchasing food and clothing. 28% reported that earning money for school fees was their primary motivation. The latter group is primarily composed of the children who are temporarily out of school, or who work on weekends only.
82% gave more than half of their income to their parents or the head of their household. 58% of children reported that their household head was pleased and supportive of their work. [insert how many parents depend on it].
Parental status clearly plays a large role in the likelihood that children will work, with 36% of the child workers having lost both parents. Only 18% had two living parents. 8% were not sure of the status of their parents at all. The remaining 38% had lost either their mother or father to death or abandonment.
Given the high rates of orphanage or parental abandonment, it is unsurprising that many children live with extended family members or guardians. 26% live only with their mother, 21% live with a grandmother, 12% with an aunt, 4% head their own household. These statistics demonstrate the particularly heavy burden that women in Musoli Parish face in caring for their own children, or those of missing family members.
It is particularly difficult for the head of the household to support their children financially, because most lack meaningful employment and work in the stone quarry, fishing boats, or sugarcane cutting themselves. The average income for the household head is a mere 1000 Ugandan Shillings a day, virtually the same as the children they are trying to support. This is because most household heads are uneducated themselves and lack employable skills, with 23% lacking any schooling whatsoever, and a further 27% not having progressed passed Primary 3. Only 1 parent surveyed had had attended any part of secondary school.
The Relationship Between School and Work
Of the 76 children surveyed, only 13% were currently attending school on a full-time basis. 57% were not in school at all, and the remaining 20% had been sent away from school due because their parents could not pay the school fees, and the children were working with the hope of returning to school shortly. However, the unfortunate reality is that the small amount of money that a child is able to earn is hardly enough to cover the cost of eating for a day, much less save for school. This results in many children being unable to return to school at all once they leave.