Re-thinking ‘harm’ in relation to children’s work: a ‘situated,’ multi-disciplinary perspective

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The UN calls for the elimination of child labour by 2030, and its ‘worst forms’ by 2025. Implicit in this mandate is the assumption that children’s work is harmful, yet no coherent theory of harm exists within the child labour field. Moreover, evidence suggests that simply removing children from supposedly harmful work is often damaging. This paper explores how harm may be understood and identified in the context of children’s work. It reviews and synthesises literature from multiple disciplines, pointing towards a more situated and nuanced approach to harm that incorporates both ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ dimensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-271
Number of pages13
JournalOxford Development Studies
Issue number3
Early online date22 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
for this paper was provided by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the ACHA Inception Workshop at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex on April 21st 2020 (see, Maconachie et al., 2020). We would like to thank the workshop’s participants and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the previous draft of the paper. Funding for the research was provided by the UK’s Department for International Development.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • child labour
  • children’s work
  • Harm
  • sdg8

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


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