The 2015 Malawi National Child Labour survey has revealed that 38 percent of Malawian children aged between five and 17 years are into child labour.
Child labour is referred to the engagement of children in prohibited work and, more generally, in types of work that are socially and morally undesirable.
According to the results of the survey released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in Lilongwe on Friday, child labour is more prevalent in the Southern Region at 43.5 percent and 33 percent for the Central Region and Northern Region.
The report says among children in child labour, 60 percent were in hazardous work.
The results further indicate that 72 percent of children aged five to 17 years work in the agriculture sector, while 23 percent of children are in domestic employment and three percent are working in wholesale and retail industry.
The survey also indicated that out of the working children, eight percent were no longer in school and five percent have never attended school.
Commenting on t h e results, Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe, said the figures are worrisome as the trend affects the number of children that can be educated.
He said this means in the next five or more, the country will not have newly educated technical people.
“The government has set up technical schools to provide technical expertise to such children, but if they are involved in child labour, it means they will not have technical and basic knowledge hence they will not be able to contribute to the growth of the economy, than they would have been if they had passed through the technical schools,” Gondwe said.
He said child labour has been identified to be an issue which is affecting the economic development of the country since it impacts negatively on human capital development.
“Children have been involved and are being involved in different economic activities that have affected and keep on affecting their growth and social life,” he said.
Gondwe said many children forced into employment are already poor, vulnerable and marginalised.
“By engaging in work, many compromise, or are denied their right to education and enter their productive years lacking the skills and productive capacity f o r gainful employment.
“As adults, they are most likely to be poor, marginalised and dependent on the earnings of their own children thus perpetuating the child labour poverty cycle,” he said.
International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director for Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique Alexio Musindo, said child labour has always been of critical concern for the ILO.
He said global number of children in child labour has declined by one third since 2000 from 246 million to 168 million children of which 85 million are in hazardous work.
“Agriculture remains by far the most important sector where child labourers can be found, but the problems are not negligible in services and industry mostly in the formal sector,” Musindo said.
He further said the task to eliminate child labour requires all stakeholders to translate words into actions.