Improving Working Conditions for Young Workers

Farah Chandani
Resource Type: 

An estimated 18 million Ethiopian children aged 5-17 engage in some form of work—almost a fourth of the population. Although the country’s policies and legislation protect children from exploitative labor and support their education, the incidences of child labor still remain very high in the informal sectors, making it difficult to enforce safe and reasonable labor practices.

Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation (E-FACE) is a four-year project, funded by the United States Department of Labor, and implemented in collaboration with World Vision, MEDA, and the Mission for Community Development Program (MCDP). Within this project MEDA works to improve the livelihoods of 7,000 vulnerable families and 3,250 youth.

MEDA’s work is focused on increasing incomes for families primarily engaged in agriculture and the textile sector by linking small-scale artisans and weavers to markets, enhancing their production techniques and linking them to appropriate technologies, improved input supplies, and financing. Working through local partners, MEDA implemented the Keep Safe program, which offered young weavers, aged 14 to 17, with rights and hazards awareness training, and a referral system to get some of the youth into other areas of employment or back in school.

The Keep Safe program was complemented with occupational health and safety training and incentives for business owners/weavers to improve workplace conditions and update antiquated equipment such as looms through access to loans through Village Savings and Loan Associations. MEDA also implemented the Building Skills for Life program, which provided training for vulnerable urban youth in life skills, entrepreneurship training and financial literacy. Upon completion of either the Keep Safe or the Building Skills for Life programs, the project also facilitated access to finance for youth clients by grouping them into Village Savings Associations for Youth (VSAY) to encourage savings behavior and impart basic financial literacy.

Curricula and training materials for both the Keep Safe and OHS training were adapted from a previous MEDA project, Promoting and Protecting the Interest of Children who Work (PPIC-Work). The PPIC-Work project aimed to improve the working conditions and learning opportunities of working children engaged in the growing micro and small enterprise sector in Egypt. They have also been adapted for use in our projects in Afghanistan and Morocco.

We hope this information will be useful to research and practitioner communities interested in understanding how to improve working conditions for young workers, and how to effectively engage both employers and employees to affect workplace improvements.

The first half of this report includes an explanation of the methodology used to collect data for this case study, followed by a detailed description of the project’s OHS interventions, focussing on both employers and their young employees. The second half provides an overview of client reach and project achievements, and ends with an analysis of the factors contributing to the project’s success in improving occupational health and safety conditions for young workers.

Workforce Development
Financial Inclusion
Sub-Saharan Africa