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Child Labor in Sub-Saharan Africa

Loretta E. Bass
Child Labor in Sub-Saharan Africa
ISBN: 978-1-58826-286-8
ISBN: 978-1-58826-861-7
2004/213 pages/LC: 2003026518
A related title: Young Solders: Why They Choose to Fight by Rachel Brett and Irma Specht.

"Fills a critical void in the literature on children and work in Africa. Child Labor provides an essential overview of the subject. A must read for those interested in questions of age, gender, labor, politics, and development in contemporary Africa."—Beverly Grier, African Studies Review

"[Bass helps] us understand the complex patterning of child labor through her deft handling of both official statistics and her own field research.... Child Labor in Sub-Saharan Africa provides a wealth of information, insightfully analyzed and clearly presented."—Steve Carlton-Ford, Contemporary Sociology

"An excellent study on a woefully understudied topic. Loretta Bass takes us to the ‘front lines' of a problem that we know exists, but that attracts little attention beyond occasional newspaper stories.... a real strength of the book is its use of a wide variety of evidence to support its arguments."—York Bradshaw, University of Memphis

"This wide-ranging study interrogates the pervasive and staggering phenomenon of child labor in its most diverse ramifications. Bass includes a wealth of interesting data that concretizes the issues discussed.... She has written a very valuable book."—Tabitha Kanogo, University of California, Berkeley


Although both media and scholarly attention to the use of child labor has focused on Asia and Latin America, the highest incidence of the practice is found in Africa, where one in three children works. Loretta Bass presents a comprehensive, systematic study of child labor in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bass offers a window on the lives of Africa's children workers, a view informed by her analysis of the historical, economic, political, sociocultural, and legal factors framing child labor on the continent. Drawing on research from 18 countries, she discusses the political economy of child labor at the national, community, and household levels, the role of the education system, the differences between urban and rural child laborers, and the exploitation of children as soldiers, prostitutes, and slaves. Her concluding chapter confronts the benefits and costs of child labor and considers the prospects for policy aimed at creating positive social change.


Loretta E. Bass is associate professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma.


  • Why Study Child Labor in Africa?
  • The Cultural and Historical Context of Child Labor.
  • The Political Economy of Children's Work.
  • Unequal Terrain: Rural vs. Urban Child Labor.
  • Work and School: Coordination and Conflict.
  • The Value of Children's Work: Getting the Short End of the Stick.
  • Expendable Laborers: Children as Soldiers, Prostitutes, and Slaves.
  • Making Sense of Child Labor in Africa.