Migrant child labourers in Accra : a case study of the making of an adjustment generation
This is a study of child labour as a social consequence of structural adjustment policies (SAP), the economic ideology of the 1980s and 1990s in Ghana. SAP certainly had its positive sides. However, the systematic process of impoverishment through redundancies, the high costs of living and declining state support in basic welfare worsened people's lived experiences. It is therefore argued that political and economic changes, epitomised by the long years of SAP, have burdened families, monetised social relations and increased the pressure on children. But, while child labour at the family level is an old phenomenon in Ghana, these problems have transformed some children into a new category of labourers who migrate to the cities to take up some of the numerous informal sector activities as a way of mitigating their poverty. Against this background, three broad findings regarding their motivations, lived experiences and the implications of their actions emerged in a programme of qualitative research. Firstly, the pervasive poverty, dwindling opportunities and the influence of returning migrants in the rural areas act as both the motivation and catalyst for their migration. Secondly, even though Accra offers some relative hope, the children operate in adverse and hazardous conditions that have certain implications for their future. Thirdly, some children's agency are enhanced by the roles they assume in their families and the ability to plan for the future, especially in relation to education and training. Since economic growth and development appears to be elusive, it is concluded that child migration will continue. However, children's education should be repositioned at the centre of social policy because as a preventive measure, any hour spent in the classroom is time spent away from work.