Child Labor and Schooling: Evidence from Sri Lanka, a Developing Country

Balasuriya M. Kiribanda, University of Colombo

Although child labor has been continuously observed in Sri Lanka, no comprehensive survey was conducted until 1999. Its findings revealed that 926,038 children in age group 5-17 had engaged in some work, accounting for 21% in the age group; 75% of them worked while attending school. High child labor rate thus observed is contrary to expectations given heavy investments made on social development. Trends in children's work since 1946 and characteristics by schooling in 1999 were investigated. National censuses and 1999 Child Activity Survey provided the data. Between 1946 and 1999, in the age group 10-14, activity rate declined from 13% to 1.4% while school enrolment increased markedly. But the 1999 child labor rate was high at 21%. A plausible explanation is that the proportion of children combining work and schooling remained stagnant as the school enrolment rate kept on rising at the cost of numbers engaging in work only.

Presented in Session 118: Youth Employment and Schooling in Developing Countries