top of page

Almost 5 in 10 Nigerians Cite Poverty as Main Cause of Child Labour in Nigeria

Abuja, Nigeria. December, 2016 –Latest public opinion poll results released by NOIPolls Limited have revealed that majority (45 percent) of Nigerians surveyed, disclosed that poverty is the most significant root cause of child labour in Nigeria. The persistent increase in the level of poverty in Nigeria has led to a continuous decline in the economic wellbeing of the Nigerian households[1], which subsequently increases the intensity of child labour in the country. Therefore, as a way to supplement family income, some households force their children to engage in diverse jobs to make more income. Subsequently, 19 percent blamed the incidence of child labour on parental neglect while 8 percent mentioned the high cost of education as the cause of child labour.

Though education is important because it gives people the baseline skills to survive as adults in the world, the poll results has revealed that less thoughtfulness has been given to education in recent times as a large majority of 67 percent of respondents polled, affirmed that they have seen out-of-school children in their locality within the last 3 months. In addition, 72 percent of Nigerians stated that they have seen children involved in tedious jobs and 70 percent of this proportion reported that they see children engaged mostly in street hawking, domestic work (23 percent) and street begging (15 percent) among other menial jobs. These sightings occur at times when these children should be in school, further affirming that the incidence of poverty and child labour are unavoidably linked together and also implying that education is becoming less and less important to households.

To eradicate the prevalence of child labour in the country, highest percentage (41 percent) of the respondents recommended that free education should be encouraged to combat its high costs. The need for the policy makers to give priority to formulating and implementing policies that will reduce child labour in the country cannot be over-emphasized. Priority must also be given to national educational programs such as children’s education and adult literacy campaigns to increase school enrolment of children in general and specifically for the rural residents. The government should also ensure that the children are enrolled into primary and secondary schools by providing free and compulsory basic education.

Finally, this report has shown that child labour tends to have a negative effects on household welfare as it not only prevents children from benefiting fully from baseline skill sets acquired in school, it also affects their emotional, physical and mental health, probably condemning them to a life of crime, perpetual poverty and low wage employment in their adulthood. Therefore, increasing children’s access to education is a fundamental strategy for ending child labour, and in other to reduce the multiplier effects of the incidence of child labour in Nigeria, legal instruments meant to protect children should be legislated and duly enforced. These were some of the key findings from the Child Labour Poll conducted in the week of November 28th, 2016.

Brief Background

When children that are yet to get to the age of consent are engaged in any form of work that denies them their childhood rights, deprives them of opportunities for schooling and development, which tends to affect their mental, physical, social or moral existence, it is referred to as child labour. Despite several legislative measures, child labour has remained a major source of concern globally generally and particularly in Nigeria. There are many factors that contribute to the occurrence of child labour in the country, however, the major causes are cultural and religious practices, widespread poverty, rapid urbanization, unemployment, inappropriate and poor quality of apprenticeship schemes, large family size due to multiple births or lack of family planning, effect of HIV/AIDS causing an increase in orphans and vulnerable children.

The International Labour Organization estimated the total number of working children in Nigeria as 15 million. This presents a tough challenge in our society because these children are subjected to tedious jobs in unsafe conditions at very paltry wages which is exploitative and injurious to their physical, social and moral development. The prevalence of child labour in Nigeria has been high over the years and each geo-political zone has its peculiarity. Child labour is so common in the country that it has been acknowledged by many as part of normal life. The Almajiri system in the North was borne out of cultural and religious beliefs but has been upheld to be exploitative to the children. In the East through to the South-South zone, the apprenticeship schemes have been gotten wrong over time, children are seen dropping out of school, especially boys, to work as apprentices towards the learning of a trade and they end up suffering the double burden of housework for their pay masters. The engagement of trafficked children in all sorts of social vices like child prostitution and domestic helps has also overwhelmed the South-Western zone of the country; street hawking is also very rampant there because traditionally, children have worked with their families, but today children are forced to work for their own and their family’s survival.[2]

Child work and child labour are often confused with each other, while child work comprises of involving children safely in household and occupational activities as a way of moderately socializing them in the norms, traditions and set skills necessary for their effective adjustment to life, child labour makes children, especially girls, work in domestic service, sometimes starting as young as 5 or 6. They suffer from fatigue because they are exposed to long hours of work in dangerous and unhealthy environments; they also suffer irregular attendance at school, lack of comprehension and motivation, improper socialization, exposure to risk of physical and emotional abuse and the high likelihood of being involved in crime. Research also shows that majority of child workers display poor educational achievements. The practice is also an abnormality which takes away the innocence of millions of children and it is a threat to the future of any given country in the long run.[3]

Although there have been intense efforts to lessen the pervasiveness of child labour, the successes recorded have been very minimal due to many challenges such as the lack of a coherent National Policy on the elimination of child labour. Many international Non-Governmental Agencies and the ones within the country have stood up against child labour but their efforts seems to yield no results as children under the age of 14 are still seen working across Nigeria in hazardous conditions with little food, little pay, no education or medical care. Many of these children carry too much responsibility for their age and this establishes a cycle of child rights violation. In view of this, NOIPolls conducted a survey on child labour in Nigeria to ascertain its cause, the extent of its effect and the possible solution to reduce it to the barest minimum.

Survey Findings

In 2015, the United Nation’s International Children’s Fund’s country director, Jean Gough, disclosed that no fewer than 10.5 million Nigerian children are out of school. She advocated for synergy with UNICEF and some other parties to reduce the number of out-of-school children.[4] Similarly, this survey results revealed that 67 percent of Nigerians reported seeing out-of-school children in their locality and the North-East zone with 80 percent accounted for the largest proportion of Nigerians who asserted to this. Also, respondents between 18 – 35 years have the largest fraction (72 percent) in this regard, possibly because they are also on the streets. Aside the activities of the insurgents in that zone, whose campaign has been centered on abominating and subsequent eradication of western education, majority of the schools destroyed are yet to be rebuilt and those that are ready have zero or low attendance due to the fear of being attacked.

On the other hand, 33 percent said they have not seen any out-of-school children within the last 3 months and the respondents from the South-Western zone had the majority (54 percent) which may signify high school patronage due to peace and stability in the area.

Out of the 67 percent who acknowledged seeing out-of-school children in their locality within the last 3 months, 48 percent disclosed that they always seen them around. While 27 percent stated that they see them sometimes, 17 percent mentioned seeing them very often. This indicates that not much attention is given to education in some part of the country either due to the inability of parents to pay their children’s school fees owing to poverty or that the children chose education as the least on their priority due to bad orientation.

Subsequently, irrespective of those who have seen out-of-school children, the larger proportion of Nigerians confirmed that they have personally seen children engaged in physical labour or jobs in their locality and residents from the North-West accounted for the highest percentage of Nigerians in this category with 78%. On the contrary, 28 percent indicated that they have not personally noticed such incidents.Trend analysis shows a significant 14-points decrease in the number of respondents who witnessed such incidence in 2013 than in 2016 and this clearly indicates the possibility of awareness created by international agencies and a promising acceptability that children are not supposed to be involved in any form of work that will be too dangerous to their wellbeing.

Furthermore, the survey also revealed that most respondents (70 percent) cited street hawking as the job most out of school children engage in and the South-South zone presents as the largest proportion of respondents in this section (84 percent). This is followed by 23 percent who mentioned domestic work while 15 percent mentioned street begging and most of the respondents in this group are from the North-East zone which further buttresses the issue of unemployment and hunger as a result of the peril of the Boko Haram insurgency in the zone. Others include; cargo loading (13 percent), bus conductor (7 percent), construction site labourers (7 percent) and family business (6 percent) amongst other menial jobs.

Trend analysis clearly revealed a 2-points increase in the number of Nigerians who cited street hawking when comparing the current result with that obtained in 2013. Also, while domestic work decreased by 2-points, street begging drastically decreased by 16-points in 2016.

In ascertaining the views of Nigerians on what they think could be responsible for the incidence of child labour in Nigeria; responses revealed that a majority of respondents (45 percent) blamed it on poverty. During the course of this survey, most of the respondents revealed that some poor households adopt child labour as one of the strategies for improving their economic wellbeing and it is inevitable due to high level of market imperfections in Nigeria.

Additionally, 19 percent disclosed that parental neglect has caused high prevalence of child labour. The quest for supplementing the family income especially in the cases of large families informs child labour as reported by 14 percent of the respondents interviewed. It is also worthy to note that 12 percent mentioned high cost of education inferring that the parents that are financially incapacitated to pay for their children’s school fees, are at risk of exposing such children to all forms of child labour to avoid being idle or to pay for their fees by themselves. Other mentions include Illiteracy (9 percent) and high birth rate (5 percent) among others.Comparing the current findings with that obtained in 2013 reveals a massive 27-points decrease in the number of Nigerians who mentioned poverty. Similarly, there was a huge 14-points increase in the percentage of Nigerians who thinks parental neglect is the main reason for child labour.

Lastly, the survey revealed that free education topped the lists of suggestions given by majority (41 percent) of the respondents surveyed and residents from the North-East zone (51 percent) accounted for the largest proportion of Nigerians who advocated for free education. During the course of this survey, respondents disclosed that due to the poverty level, parents in the rural areas find it difficult to pay their children’s school fees and transport fare to the schools since majority of the schools in the areas are always far from their dwelling places.

Also, 20 percent of the respondents mentioned job creation and the South-South zone had the highest percentage (25 percent) of respondents in this category. In addition, 11 percent was of the opinion that parents should be enlightened on birth control measures to curtail number of children born without adequate and proper care. While some stated that government should improve the economy (10 percent), others advocated for more awareness on the effects of child labour (9 percent) among other suggestions.

Comparing current survey result with that obtained in 2013 has revealed a significant 7-points increase in the proportion of Nigerians who are advocating for free education as a way of reducing child labour in the country. This implies that observers have a perception that if education is given freely to households, especially the poor, there would be less incidence of child labour in the country.

In conclusion, recent poll results revealed that 45 percent of Nigerians are of the opinion that poverty is the major reason for the prevalence of child labour in Nigeria. The report also showed that 67 percent of Nigerians have seen out-of-school children in their locality within the last 3 months while the majority (72 percent) attested to the fact that they normally see children engage in physical labour or jobs to make ends meet.

Therefore, this survey has revealed that children work mainly due to poverty; hence, poverty reduction is one of the keys to reducing child labor. Financial sector reforms and specific micro-finance programs should target the poor in rural areas especially women, youth and the unemployed as this would go a long way to reduce poverty and the number of children that engage in tedious jobs to augment their family income and in turn eradicate child labour in our society. There have been several explanations of the theoretical and empirical justification of the positive relationship that exists between household poverty and child labor in developing countries; one of them is the notion that the children’s income augments the family earnings.​

In summary, it was observed 41 percent of the respondents have recommended that, for child labour to be eradicated, free education needs to be encouraged. The government should provide some compensation to poor parents for sending their children to school by means of bursary or other ways that would make education cheap, as some parents are too poor and can’t afford the fees and attendant transportation costs to send needed to enroll their wards in schools.

Survey Method

The opinion poll was conducted in the week of November 28th 2016. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise – within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited is the No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at

DisclaimerThis press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published.

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

Press Contact

The Editor







bottom of page