To determine the prevalence, types and demographic features of child labour among school children in Nigeria.
A cross-sectional interview study of 1675 randomly selected public primary and secondary school pupils aged 5 to less than 18 years was conducted in the Sagamu Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria from October 1998 to September 1999.
The overall prevalence of child labour was 64.5%: 68.6% among primary and 50.3% among secondary school pupils. Major economic activities included street trading (43.6%), selling in kiosks and shops (25.4%) and farming (23.6%). No child was involved in bonded labour or prostitution. Girls were more often involved in labour activities than boys (66.8% versus 62.1%, p = 0.048): this difference was most obvious with street trading (p = 0.0004). Most of the children (82.2%) involved in labour activities did so on the instruction of one or both parents in order to contribute to family income. Children of parents with low socio-economic status or of poorly educated parents were significantly involved in labour activities (p = 0.01 and p = 0.001 respectively). Child labour was also significantly associated with increasing number of children in the family size (p = 0.002). A higher prevalence rate of child labour was observed among children living with parents and relations than among those living with unrelated guardians.
It is concluded that smaller family size, parental education and family economic enhancement would reduce the pressure on parents to engage their children in labour activities.