Study: A high school graduate will earn 60% more than a high school dropout in a 65-year working life

A recent study on child labor conducted by US-based Notre Dame University in partnership with child-focused NGO World Vision reveals that a child who drops out at age 12 to work, will most likely earn 60% lower over his lifetime than a child who finishes high school.

The study looked into the earnings of a child laborer in fishing, construction, and scavenging and the costs associated with education in selected areas in Mindanao. It also looked into the potential earnings of both high school and college graduates. The result shows that the incremental income for a high school graduate would pay back the earnings and cost of education in just three years even in the most lucrative of child laborer scenarios. It further highlights that high school graduates may not earn more per day but the likelihood of finding work on a consistent basis increases substantially. A college graduate, on the other hand, will pay back the earning of a child laborer, including a four-year cost, in just three years.

Based on the 2011 Survey on Children of the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Philippines constitutes 3.38% of the 62.1 million child labor in the Asia Pacific Region and 1.38% of the 152 million worldwide.

“This translates to 2.1 million children across the country being robbed of their childhood and their future because of having to work or engage in child labor,” shared Rommel Fuerte, World Vision National Director.

Drivers of child labor

The study identifies acute poverty as one of the drivers of child labor. To meet the basic needs of the family, children are called upon to help earn income even during school hours.

Results of the data analysis reveal that secondary school aged children (13 to 17) are 44% likely to be behind or out of school. The probability of boys with four or more siblings to dropout is higher at 60% compared to those with fewer siblings.

“It is also worth noting that all of the parents interviewed expressed their hopes for their children to finish school, but also admitted that they still rely on their children to help with family needs,” said World Vision Child Protection Manager, Jezreel Domingo.

Families who are already in acute poverty are also vulnerable to external factors such as sudden death of a parent, unexpected illness or accidents, which may eventually drive children into child labor.

Supplement programs that keep children in school

While keeping children in school is an effective way to combat child labor in the Philippines, it has to be complemented by programs that offset the income a child laborer is expected to contribute to the family. Providing livelihood training and opportunities for parents would increase their earning power and would help them cope from daily needs or an unexpected crisis.

The Philippines has also made a significant impact in the past years in addressing child labor. Among the government’s notable accomplishments include the passing of Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act which protects children during national disasters, the creation of Internet Crimes Against Children office under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and the updating of programs against child labor.

“What’s equally important is law enforcement. We have to work together, NGOs, government and all like-minded individuals to ensure that all these laws are implemented down to the household level. World Vision saw the impact of partnership and community involvement in its ABK project. Doing it again is not impossible,” added Fuerte. The ABK project funded by the United States Department of Labor was aimed at reducing child labor in sugarcane farms through a multi-sector approach integrating initiatives in livelihoods, education, advocacy and social protection, in line with the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL). The first two phases which ran from 2003-2011 were able to withdraw and prevent over 60,000 Filipino children from engaging in the Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL) while ABK LEAP 3 which was implemented from 2012 to 2016 has assisted 54,479 children who were engaged or at risk of working in sugarcane farms from 30,412 households.

Lastly, programs that emphasize the value of education and economic enhancement should be strengthened. The research findings show that child labor is also a socio-cultural issue. Many respondents said that children are expected to help support the family when needed, including child laborers who expressed that they are willing to work because they wanted to help the family.

World Vision’s It Takes A World Campaign which was launched in 2017 hopes to protect at least 3 million children across the country from all forms of violence, including child labor, by 2020.

“It is possible for every child to be protected, reach her or his full potential and experience a life in all its fullness. The work is far from over but by working together, ending violence against children is possible,” ended Fuerte.

World Vision/June 12, 2018


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World Vision is a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.

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