Child labour and health: a systematic review
This study aimed to synthesise the available knowledge, identify unexplored areas and discuss general limits of the published evidence. We focused on outcomes commonly hypothesised to be affected by child labour: nutritional status, harmful exposures and injuries.
Four electronic databases (EMBASE, MEDLINE, Scopus, ISI Web of Science) were searched in November 2017. All articles published since 1996, without restrictions on language, were considered for inclusion.
Out of the 1090 abstracts initially identified by the search, 78 articles were selected for inclusion and reviewed. Most of the studies were conducted in Asia and South America, and only a third of them compared working children to a control group of non-working children. Child labour appears to be associated with poor nutritional status, diseases due to harmful exposures, and a higher prevalence of injuries.
Despite evidence for a negative relation between child work and health, the cross-sectional design of most studies limits the causal interpretation of existing findings. More rigorous observational studies are needed to confirm and better quantify these associations.
KeywordsChild labour Child employment Child welfare Injury Safety Underweight Harmful exposure
This study was founded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant, “Examining the impact of social policies on health equity” (ROH-115209), the Foundation Grant “Development epidemiology: identifying evidence-based interventions for improving population health and promoting health equity (FRN 148467), and the Canada Research Chairs program.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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