The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2021 | Between hazardous and protective child labour: Conceptualizing child domestic work for measurement and interventions.
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Between hazardous and protective child labour: Conceptualizing child domestic work for measurement and interventions.

Principal Supervisor: Prof Cathy Zimmerman (LSHTM)

Co-Supervisor: Asst Prof Nicola Pocock (LSHTM) & Assoc Prof Elaine Chase (UCL Institute of Education)

Project Description

Child domestic work is a largely invisible form of child labour. Globally there were an estimated 17.2 million Child Domestic Workers (CDW) in 2012, of whom two thirds are estimated to be girls, of whom approximately 65% were aged 5-14. Over one-fifth of CDWs (3.7 million) were estimated to be in hazardous work. Despite its estimated prevalence worldwide, research on CDWs is fraught with challenges, including the hidden nature of the work, regulatory gaps related to child domestic work, and definitional, conceptual and measurement gaps about children who undertake domestic work in a third party’s home. For example, in low- and middle-income countries, CDWs are often missed or misclassified because their work is taken for granted, or overlooked, they are not considered a household member or, conversely, because they are perceived to be in a ‘fostering’ arrangement where they are not considered a worker (ILO, 2017).

Literature on child domestic work commonly highlights the associations between CDW and violence, injuries, work-related illness, mental health disorders, and exclusion from formal or non-formal learning (ILO, 2017). While there has been an understandable focus on risks associated with CDW, we know little about what constitutes beneficial or protective forms of child work. Similarly, child domestic work has seldom been studied using a public health lens to consider the wide-ranging health and safety implications of young people in domestic labour or to identify public health strategies for harm prevention.

This PhD research aims to develop a multi-dimensional conceptualisation of child domestic work for future intervention development, research and measurement. The research includes three objectives:

1) Identify the various applications of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) (e.g., crisp and fuzzy set analysis) to define public health risks (via systematic review);

2) Analyse the prevalence and working conditions of CDW in Myanmar (using task-based and standard labour force survey data), and;

3) Assess conditions that are necessary and sufficient to explain range of outcomes from beneficial to harmful forms of CDW (utilising QCA and/or modelling techniques).

The successful PhD applicant will conduct a systematic review of published and grey literature to understand different applications of QCA to define public health risks (objective 1). You will examine the prevalence and working conditions of CDW drawing on three datasets (objective 2 & 3): participatory qualitative data based on research with former child workers; qualitative interview data with CDW employers and recruiters in Myanmar; and  household survey data on CDW prevalence, attitudes and treatment in Myanmar. You will also have the opportunity to collect your own qualitative data collaborating with our Myanmar-based partners. Ultimately, you will develop your own approach to assess the range of conditions of CDW.

This research is designed specifically to contribute to local programming and policy decision-making for child domestic workers in Myanmar and to improve international measurement of child labour, working with the International Labour Organization. This studentship offers unparalleled opportunities to engage with CDW and measurement experts in UN and donor agencies and NGOs, as part of two linked research projects under our “Invisible Girls’ programme, led by the two Principal Investigators at LSHTM’s Gender Violence and Health Centre.

Candidate Requirements

Graduates with a good first degree and/or Master’s degree in social or medical statistics, epidemiology, education, psychology or other relevant social science with an interest and aptitude for quantitative methods and modelling are encouraged to apply. Applicants should be comfortable travelling and residing in low-income settings for significant periods and at ease working with local non-governmental partners. An aptitude for conceptual thinking is a plus. Applicants who speak Burmese are highly desired.

The studentship is open to applicants who meet the Home fee rate requirements. For an exceptional overseas or EU candidate, we will cover international student fees from other grants. For further information about Fee Status Assessment please see the School’s policy and procedure document.

The award includes tuition fees and a stipend of £17,285 including London Weighting.

The studentship is 100% FTE for 3 years, from September 2021.

Subject Areas/Keywords

Child domestic work; child labour; prevention; human trafficking; exploitation; risk and abuse; physical and mental health

Key References:

ILO, 2017. Practical Guide to Ending Child Labour and Protecting Young Workers in Domestic Work. ILO, Geneva. Available at:

Pocock & Zimmerman Child Domestic Worker prevalence in Myanmar and Southeast Asia: Briefing note. Available at:

Ragin, 2000. Fuzzy-set social science. University of Chicago Press.

Suhaimi & Farid, 2018. Toward a better estimation of total population of domestic workers in Indonesia. ILO, Jakarta. Available at: .

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

For any queries regarding the project please contact: LSHTM supervisors Nicola Pocock CC’ing Cathy Zimmerman

Further information about PhDs at LSHTM is available from:

Information about the MPhil/PhD programme structure at LSHTM, as well as application guidance and a link to the portal, can be found on the School’s research degrees and Doctoral College pages.

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

To apply for this studentship, applicants should submit an application for research degree study in the Faculty of Public Health and Policy, via the LSHTM application portal. Under the ‘Funding Section’ of the application form please clearly state ‘Bloomsbury PhD Studentship’ and the project title ‘Between hazardous and protective child labour: Conceptualizing child domestic work for measurement and interventions’. Students should submit a research proposal based on the advertisement for this project.

Please use your Supporting Statement to explain why you are motivated to apply for this particular project, and what skills and experience you will bring to the project. In your Research Proposal please respond to the project description and elaborate on how you would approach the project theoretically and methodologically based on your previous academic training and experience.

The deadline for applications is Monday 8th March, 23.59 GMT

Incomplete applications will not be considered for this studentship.

For any outstanding queries regarding the application process (that are not already addressed here), please contact the Admissions team:

For details of studentships available at other Bloomsbury colleges but in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, please see this Bloomsbury website.

Please apply directly to the lead institution only.

Closing date for applications is:  Monday 8th March, 23.59 GMT