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Very poor parents cannot afford to forgo the income that a child worker brings to the family, let alone meet the out-of-pocket costs of sending the child to school, even though they realize that depriving the child of an education will most likely condemn her or him to a life in poverty as an adult.In this sense, as the ILO has noted, child labor is both a cause and a consequence of poverty, contributing to a perpetuation of household poverty across generations.
In this chapter and the report, we follow the ILO usage and use the term “child labor” to mean work that is hazardous to the emotional and physical development of children below a specified minimum age, as distinguished from “child work,” which is not automatically considered problematic.
This chapter offers a framework for assessing the progress toward the elimination of child labor, identifying the problems encountered, and suggesting effective means for accelerating progress.
As we discuss below, all estimates of child labor, including those of the ILO, are subject to potentially serious measurement errors and biases: this caution has to be kept in mind throughout this chapter.
Some limited amount of work by children during off-school hours may be desirable for their healthy growth into adulthood.
The next three sections follow the structure of the previous chapters on core labor standards: assessing compliance; the available data sources from the perspectives of coverage, quality, reliability, and possible biases; and our conclusions and recommendations.
Understanding the reasons for child labor is essential for assessing and monitoring progress toward reaching the goal of eliminating child labor and for developing appropriate indicators for this purpose.A large proportion of child labor occurs in poor rural areas: nearly 70 percent of the economically active children in developing countries in 2002 worked in rural areas, mostly on family subsistence farms.In many developing countries, poverty is largely, though not wholly, a rural phenomenon, and most of the rural poor are marginal farmers and agricultural laborers.Whatever the reason for children’s working the conditions in which they work are often injurious to their health and growth.Turning to demand for child workers, most often it is cheaper to use child workers than adults for the same work.Both supply and demand for child workers are important to developing such an understanding.On the supply side, the most common reason for parents to put their children to work is extreme poverty.The next section discusses background and contextual factors to set the stage for the rest of the chapter.The section covers definitional issues as well as data quality and availability problems.Since both child workers and their parents are often illiterate, em- ployers are able to manipulate the amount they deduct from wages of children toward debt service and thus keep children in bonded labor for a long time (Human Rights Watch, 2003).Also, the occupations in which children are valued as workers because of their dexterity (e.g., carpet making) often involve unhealthy working conditions and long working hours.