Poor families need children to contribute economically to their survival.

When the topic of the elimination of child labor is raised, people often immediately object saying, “How will poor families survive without the additional income of the children?” Perhaps no concern about the desire to eliminate child labor is more rampant than the perception that households, particularly those in poverty, cannot afford to lose the contribution made by their children. Household poverty is widely regarded to be the chief cause of child labor. However, this is not necessarily true. As myth #1 indicates, other factors may be at work as well. Initially, some families have difficulty coping without the wages of their children. However, removing children from work may not present as much of a problem as initially perceived. Redirecting child laborers to school is better for families in the long run than letting them continue to work.

Regrettably, there is little systematic evidence regarding the economic value of child labor. Income from children typically accounts for some 10-40 percent of household income, which might be critical when household income is so low that it is spent mostly on food. In its 2003 Economic Study of the Costs and Benefits of Eliminating Child Labor, ILO-IPEC assumes that a child worker’s contribution to household income is 20 percent of an adult’s contribution. While child labor may increase household-income and contribute to its survival in the short run, it tends to have the opposite effect for future generations.