Understanding the Understanding Children’s Work Programme
The Understanding Children’s Work (UCW) programme is an inter-agency research partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF and the World Bank. UCW produces research aimed at informing policies on child labour and youth employment. Research covers child labour and youth employment challenges in their various dimensions—their nature, extent, causes and consequences—as well as what policy approaches are most effective in addressing them. This and future columns will look in-depth at the work UCW is undertaking and how it is helping partner agencies and national governments effectively address child labour and youth employment issues.
UCW is uniquely placed to promote research cooperation, policy dialogue, partnership building and knowledge exchange in child labour and related policy areas. To achieve this, UCW has five core components:
- Statistics and measurement
- Policy-oriented research
- Impact evaluation
- Country-level research cooperation
- Research dissemination and capacity building
The statistics and measurement component supports partner agencies and government efforts to strengthen quantitative information on child labour. It also serves as a platform for developing common statistical concepts and terminology relating to child labour, which are critical for clarity and consistency in child labour monitoring. Relatedly, UCW supports the development and testing of new research tools needed to fill key information gaps.
UCW’s unique access to a wide range of datasets from the ILO, UNICEF, the World Bank and direct partnerships with national statistical offices has enabled it to assemble the largest database of child labour indicators. The UCW database currently contains over 500 datasets for more than 100 countries.
The policy-oriented research component focuses on research in areas where important knowledge gaps persist and using this research to promote informed responses to child labour challenges. UCW organizes its research around five themes:
- Social protection
- School-to-work transition
- Worst forms of child labour
Through close collaboration with the ILO, UNICEF, the World Bank, other international development institutions and stakeholders in partner countries, UCW produces research in each of these areas, which supports the development of intervention strategies designed to remove children from the world of work and improve employment outcomes for young persons above the minimum working age.
Children at school in Tambon Mae La, Myanmar. Unsplash/Capturing the human heart
The impact evaluation component is part of broader efforts to improve understanding of the relative effectiveness of different policy approaches to eliminating child labour. It provides evidence concerning not only whether specific child labour interventions work, but also how they work and their relevance for broader replication.
UCW’s impact evaluation efforts focus specifically on three main areas. First, UCW supports consolidating and organizing existing evidence from impact evaluations. This information is made available through the UCW online Inventory of Child Labour Impact Evaluations and the publication of literature reviews. Second, it supports the design and implementation of impact evaluations of specific child labour interventions. Third, through partnerships with various international organizations, UCW supports the integration of child labour into impact evaluations of other relevant policy areas.
The knowledge generated by impact evaluations is used by governments, social partners, international organizations, NGOs and multilateral and bilateral agencies to help improve programme design and effectiveness and guide the expansion of programme interventions.
The country-level research cooperation component involves applying the tools and methods developed as part of the other components of UCW to specific country contexts. Implementation of this component entails direct collaboration with a variety of national counterparts, including governments, social partners and local research institutions. It also involves close collaboration with the ILO, UNICEF and World Bank country teams, and, as such, provides a common platform for supporting governments in developing effective strategies for addressing child labour and promoting decent work for youth.
The inter-agency reports emerging from country-level cooperation provide an information base on child labour and youth employment. These reports also provide evidence of how child labour challenges are linked to broader development concerns, including education and migration, and highlight the need to address child labour as an important element of national development strategies.
The dissemination and capacity building component is directed towards providing access to UCW research outputs to as wide an audience as possible, through outlets such as workshops, peer-reviewed journal articles, social media and seminar series. UCW also partners with web-based information portals to circulate research outputs, including this knowledge platform. Statistics about a core set of child labour indicators have been shared widely through the World Bank’s annual World Development Indicators publication and software, the US Department of Labor annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor report, as well as the ILO World Report on Child Labour series.
UCW also supports improving national capacities to analyse data on child labour through training that focuses on child labour and youth employment concepts and terminology, as well as on analysing survey data. Since 2012, UCW has collaborated with national universities and research centres to help build their capacity to undertake child labour research.
All of these activities together make UCW’s research critical to filling knowledge gaps that hamper achieving Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and are also vital to progress towards other SDGs focused on education, decent work and poverty reduction.
Furio Rosati is a project manager with UCW and a professor of public economics at the University of Rome (Tor Vergata).
This article has been prepared by Furio Rosati as a contribution to Delta 8.7. As provided for in the Terms and Conditions of Use of Delta 8.7, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of UNU or its partners.