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Political economy of children’s work: economic restructuring, the coffee trade and social reproduction in post-Socialist Ethiopia

Part of the Geographies of Children and Young People book series (GCYP,volume 8)

Abstract

This chapter views children’s work in the context of coffee production in Ethiopia through the lens of global political economy. It develops insights into the ways in which structural inequalities and declining terms of trade for coffee in international markets play out in the working lives of children. The chapter contextualizes how livelihood displacement involving a shift from subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture has increased the scope, duration, and intensity of children’s labor and how – in contexts of systemic poverty – familial livelihood strategies depend largely upon the contributions of their young members. It is argued that children’s work and exploitation cannot be detached from “political economy” that not only informs societal values of “work” but also creates material conditions and transforms family and community livelihood strategies. The chapter discusses how crisis in international trade for coffee contributes to the reallocation of household responsibilities from men and women to children and, in the process, amplifies children’s (economic) exploitation. In addition, it examines how the deeper transmission of capitalism and neoliberal reforms involving privatization and cuts in public expenditure lead to hidden ruptures in social reproduction. It is suggested that understanding the lives of working children needs to move beyond the view of their childhood as apolitical to incorporate the material dimensions of childhood.

Keywords

  • Child labor
  • Cash crops
  • Coffee trade
  • Economic restructuring
  • Rural development
  • Political economy
  • Social reproduction
  • Ethiopia

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Abebe, T. (2015). Political economy of children’s work: economic restructuring, the coffee trade and social reproduction in post-Socialist Ethiopia. In: Ansell, N., Klocker, N., Skelton, T. (eds) Geographies of Global Issues: Change and Threat. Geographies of Children and Young People, vol 8. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-4585-95-8_24-1

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