An Analysis of the Causes and Consequences of Child Labor in the Philippines Emmanuel F. Esguerra1 1.


The growth of interest in the subject of child labor in recent years can be ascribed to a growing worldwide consciousness about the rights and welfare of children ever since the declaration by the United Nations of the International Year of the Child in 1979. From a human development perspective, child labor is viewed as a phenomenon that runs counter to the principle of protecting children and providing them the means to develop and realize their full potential as human beings. A second motivating factor is the concern about international labor standards in the context of the lobby by developed countries within the WTO to introduce trade sanctions against countries, mostly developing countries, that are found to be exporting goods with child-labor content. As Basu (1999) observes: the issue of child labor has “brought two very different kinds of people onto the same platform – individuals who are genuinely concerned about the plight of children in poor countries, and those who comprise the forces of protectionism in developed countries” (p. 1083). A third reason is that child labor is generally associated with poverty and vulnerability, and concern about the causes and consequences of poverty, especially chronic poverty, naturally leads to discussions of child labor as one of the related policy issues. Notwithstanding problems in the definition and quantification of child labor, it would seem that there exists near universal agreement about the undesirability of child labor. Approaching a consensus about how to solve the problem seems less easy, however. The term “child labor” refers to situations where “children are compelled to work on a regular basis to earn a living for themselves and their families and, as a result, are disadvantaged educationally and socially”. It also applies to situations where “children work in conditions that are exploitative and damaging to their health and to their physical and mental development; where children are separated from their families often deprived of educational training opportunities; and where children are forced to lead prematurely adult lives.” (ILO-IPEC). Not all child work is child labor according to the preceding definition. The specific work situation and its consequences on the child worker are the defining elements of child labor. This poses problems for measurement since regularly collected household data on labor market activity do not generally provide information about work conditions, let alone the consequences of work. The measurement problem is more acute in the case where the activity is hidden or is considered illegal. A prior problem, of course, is defining the term “child”, and what constitutes “exploitative” work, since both terms may carry different meanings across cultures and societies. This makes cross-country comparisons problematic. It also exposes the inadequacy of sweeping proposals that call for a ban on child labor as a way of solving the problem. In the Philippines, the term child labor applies to the “illegal employment of children below 15 years old or those below 18 years old in hazardous occupations” (ILS, 1994). Philippine law (RA 7658, amending RA 7610 of 1992) prohibits the employment of children below 15 years old in public and private undertakings, except under certain conditions.2 Department Order No. 4
Associate Professor, University of the Philippines School of Economics. The author is grateful to Lawrence Dacuycuy for the excellent assistance provided in processing the data. 2 These conditions include: working directly under the responsibility of the parents or a legal guardian, non-interference of work with schooling, and provision of the employer of measures to protect the health, safety, morals and normal development of the child, including training and development of skills.


of 1999 moreover declares specific activities hazardous to persons below 18 years old and prohibits their employment in these activities. These include: (1) work which causes exposure to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, (2) work underground, under water, or at dangerous heights, (3) work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools, or which involve manual handling or transport of heavy loads, (4) work in an unhealthy environment, and (5) work under particularly difficult conditions (e.g. long hours, confinement to employers’ premises). The ineffectiveness of the existing prohibitions is evident, however, from both casual observation and labor market statistics.3 As if to accept the reality that the elimination of child labor requires more than just declaring it unlawful, the Government has decided that some forms of child labor merit more urgent attention than others. The Philippine ratification of ILO Convention 182 in 2000 called for a national commitment to take immediate and effective measures to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labor. As a signatory to the Convention, the Philippine Government, in cooperation with the ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC), will implement through a time-bound approach a programme linking action against child labor with national objectives. Efforts against child labor will be linked with economic and social policies, including those dealing with macroeconomic performance, population, education and the labor market. The Time-bound Program (TBP) aims to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor within 5-10 years. The present study, which has been commissioned by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the ILO, is intended to provide the analytical bases for the implementation of the TBP to address the problem of child labor. Specifically, the study aims: 1) to analyze the causes and consequences of child labor in the Philippines; and 2) to provide recommendations that will be the basis for developing integrated and sustainable interventions and/or enhancing existing government policies and programs, both economic and social, to address child labor. The influence of macro level parameters on households’ decisions to allow children to participate in the labor market is the focus of the study. This report is organized as follows: Section 2 describes some features of the Philippine economy in relation to how they may impact on the labor force participation of children. Section 3 discusses trends in child employment as observed from household survey data. Section 4 discusses the possible causes of child labor and presents the results of empirical tests. Section 5 deals with some of the consequences of child labor as gleaned from various studies. Section 6 concludes with some general recommendations. 2. The Economic and Social Context

Although the participation of children in the labor market is essentially the outcome of a private decision, various factors at work in the household’s external environment are crucial in influencing such a decision. The literature on child labor (e.g. Grootaert and Kanbur, 1995, Basu, 1999) mentions the following factors: economic growth, technological change, conditions in the adult labor market, poverty, and social policy. In addition, a number of studies in the Philippines (e.g. DOLE-Institute of Labor Studies, 1995) have attributed the observed use of child labor to globalization.

For instance, “hazardous” work includes exposure to dangerous chemicals, noxious components or biological agents, which is typical of agricultural workers who comprise the majority of workers below 18.



This section briefly describes some features of the Philippine economy as a backdrop for the subsequent analysis of child labor. The focus is on the likely implication of the trends observed on the incidence of child labor. 2.1 The Economy and Employment

Philippine economic growth has been described as boom-bust in character with periods of output growth being interrupted recurrently by slowdowns or declines.4 Since its recovery in 1986, the economy has experienced two recessions in the last 13 years, one in 1991 and more recently in 1998 as a result of the Asian financial crisis. Real GDP growth averaged 3.4 percent over the period 1988-2000. Economic policy has been more outward looking since the mid-1980s, although it was not until the 1990s that trade liberalization gained headway with dramatic cuts in tariff rates. Currently the service sector accounts for 46 percent of aggregate output while industry and agriculture account for 34 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Approximately 25 percent of GDP is produced by the manufacturing sector. The employment trend basically mirrors the economy’s growth performance (Figure 2.1). In the last ten years, the highest employment rate registered was 92.6 percent in 1996. It was also in this year when the economy grew fastest at 5.8 percent.
Fig. 2.1: GDP and Employment Growth Rates, 1988-1999
8.0 7.0 6.0

Growth Rate (%)

5.0 4.0 3.0 2.0 1.0 1988 (1.0) 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999


Table 2.1 shows that in the 1990s the services sector overtook agriculture as the major source of employment. From 33 percent in 1980, the share of services in total employment increased to about 40 percent in 1994-1995, thereafter exceeding this mark. Currently the services sector accounts for 47 percent of the employed while agriculture’s share has gone down to 37 percent. Considering that agriculture produces only 20 percent of GDP its share of total employment is indicative of low productivity and incomes in the sector. Moreover, the almost unchanging share of industry, specifically the manufacturing sector, suggests that the services sector has been mainly responsible for absorbing recent entrants to the labor force.

An attempt to explain the boom-bust character of Philippine economic growth may be found in De Dios (2001).


Table 2.1: Employed Persons by Major Industry Group (In Percent) Sector 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 53.7 53.5 51.4 49.0 44.9 Agriculture 16.5 15.2 15.5 14.2 15.4 Industry 11.4 11.0 9.7 10.1 Manufacturing 11.9 28.2 31.0 33.0 36.8 39.6 Services
Source of basic data: NSO Labor Force Survey, various years

1993 45.7 15.6 10.1 38.7

1995 44.1 15.6 10.2 40.2

1998 39.9 15.7 9.6 44.4

2000 37.1 16.2 10.0 46.7

Based on 2000 data, more than half (51 percent) of the employed are wage and salary workers. This is higher than the shares registered in 1995 (46 percent) and 1980 (42 percent). Correspondingly, the share of unpaid family workers has also gone down to 12 percent from 15 percent in 1995 and 21 percent in 1980. This trend seems compatible with the pattern of rural-tourban migration as well as with the declining share in employment of workers in agricultural, animal husbandry and forestry-related occupations. Unemployment remains a serious problem. From 1991 to 2000, the unemployment rate averaged 8.9 percent – higher than the rates of most of ASEAN countries. In 2001, the unemployment rate declined to 9.8 percent from 11.2 percent in 2000. Table 2.2: Unemployment Rates by Age Group (In Percent) Age Group 1993 1995 15-19 18.3 19.9 20-24 19.8 19.7 25-34 9.2 9.3 35-44 4.3 4.5 45-54 3.7 4.3 55-64 4.9 6.7 65 + 5.8 6.7 Average 9.3 9.5

1998 22.8 19.9 9.3 5.1 5.0 5.7 7.5 10.1

Source of basic data: NSO Labor Force Survey, various years

The Philippines’ high unemployment rate may be traced to the high unemployment rates among the youth (Table 2.2). This pattern reflects the relatively large proportion of young people in the labor force. Compared with those belonging to the older age groups, younger members of the labor force face a higher probability of being unemployed and staying unemployed to the extent that they are deficient in skills, training and education. Table 2.3 decomposes the unemployment rate by educational attainment. It shows that the unemployment rate rises as years of schooling increase beyond elementary, and is highest for those who fail to complete college. Assuming that most of this unemployment is not voluntary, the information in Table 2.3 suggests the importance of educational investments in obtaining a job. If children are prevented by work from going to school, they are more likely to face unfavorable prospects in the labor market subsequently. Table 2.3: Unemployment Rates by Highest Grade Completed (In Percent)


Grade Completed No Grade Completed Elementary Grade 1 to 5 Graduated High School 1st to 3rd Year Graduated College Undergraduate Graduate and higher 2.2 Poverty

1993 5.4 4.8 5.5 10.9 12.6 16.8 11.7

1995 5.9 5.2 5.7 11.5 12.2 16.2 11.3

1998 7.5 6.3 6.5 12.2 12.2 15.2 10.9

Source of Basic Data: NSO Labor Force Survey, various years

By various accounts, measured poverty seems to have decreased in the Philippines between 1985 and 1997. However, more recent results from the Family Income and Expenditure Survey of 2000 indicate a worsening after the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998. Moreover, despite gains in poverty reduction before the latest crisis, there remain pockets of poverty in rural areas, particularly in some parts of the Visayas and Mindanao on account of the unevenness of growth itself and the poor’s inability to access critical government services. Table 2.4: Poverty Incidence in the Philippines, 1985-1997 Year Official Estimates1 (Balisacan, 1999) 2 Self-Rated Poverty3 (NSCB) (SWS Surveys) 40.9 74.0 1985 44.0 34.4 66.0 1988 40.0 34.3 62.0 1991 40.0 32.1 68.0 1994 36.0 25.0 63.0 1997 32.0 54.0 2000 34.0
1 2

Based on percent of households. Based on percent of population. 3 Percent of households. Figures based on latest month of the year when SWS survey was conducted.

Poverty in the Philippines is largely a rural phenomenon with rural poverty accounting for about 75 percent of national poverty (Balisacan, 2001). The rural nature of poverty largely derives from the poverty of the agricultural population that makes up more than 60 percent of the total population. Households deriving their income from agriculture comprise about 67 percent of the country’s poor. By class of worker, the various poverty measures indicate that poverty is worse among the self-employed relative to wage earners, and within each category, in agriculture more than non-agriculture (Balisacan, 2001). 2.3 Implications for Child Labor

The boom-bust character of Philippine growth and the generally weak system of organized social protection in the country means that poor or low-income households are


vulnerable to income and employment shocks.5 Lacking in physical assets that may be sold or offered as collateral in order to reduce or prevent interruptions to their income streams, poor households may resort to sending their younger members to work as a risk-reducing strategy. Especially during economic downturns when adult unemployment is rising and incomes are falling, child work provides a way for augmenting household incomes. It is thus reasonable to expect that the incidence of child labor will be higher among poor households than non-poor households and that such incidence should rise especially during periods of economic slowdown or decline. The ineffectual enforcement of child labor laws by a weak bureaucracy has a reinforcing effect. 3. Patterns in Child Employment

The ILO’s Convention 138, to which the Philippines is a signatory, specifies the minimum age of entry to employment at 15. Convention 138 also applies to all kinds of work, including family undertakings. By this convention, work performed by children below 15 years old is considered child labor without exception.6 This definition carries the advantage of facilitating international comparisons of the incidence of child labor but ignores widely varying situations in the countries being compared. In practice, the ILO has deferred to its member-governments on the matter of defining minimum age as well as the circumstances that qualify child work as child labor. The minimum employment age may be higher or lower, for example, depending upon the degree to which the specific type of employment tends to jeopardize the health, safety, and morals of young persons. In the Philippines, the operational definition of child labor is as contained in Department Order No. 4 (D.O. 4, 1999) of the DOLE. This order essentially defines child labor as employment of a person below 18 years of age in work that is “hazardous and deleterious in nature” (Section 2). 3.1 Data Sources

Three main sources of data are used in this report. These are the National Survey on Working Children (NSWC) of 1995, the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS) of 1998 and the Labor Force Surveys (LFS) of 1988-2000. The NSWC is a nationwide sample survey that was undertaken as part of the action program of ILO’s International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC). Through personal interviews, the survey collected data on the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of working children with ages 5 to 17. The NSWC, which is a nationally representative sample survey, is intended to provide benchmark information on the activities of all children aged 5-17 for the purpose of national development planning and labor law enforcement monitoring. The NSWC was undertaken by the National Statistics Office (NSO), with the collaboration of other agencies, including those under the DOLE. Also an undertaking of the NSO, the APIS was started in 1998 for the purpose of tracking poverty trends during years when the Family Income and Expenditure Survey, which is implemented only every three years, is not being conducted. The APIS is also a nationwide survey that was designed to generate poverty indicators at the provincial level. The APIS provides detailed information on the health status and education of family members, awareness

See Alba (2001) for an analysis of which households tend to be vulnerable to employment shocks such as those arising from the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998. 6 Note that this is at variance with what RA 7658 provides.


and use of family planning methods, housing, water and sanitation conditions of the families, availability of credit to finance the family business or enterprise, and other demographic and economic characteristics aside from data on family income and expenditures. Because APIS also provides information about the extent of participation of family members in the labor market, the data set can be used to test certain hypotheses about the relationship of child work and various dimensions of poverty. A third source of data on working children, the LFS is a nationally and regionally representative survey regularly undertaken by the NSO that collects information on the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the population. The survey is conducted quarterly (in January, April, July, and October) to monitor labor market developments in the country. Since the LFS collects information on the labor market activity of each household member starting from age 10, it is also a good source of information about the nature and extent of child work in the Philippines. Moreover, quarterly LFS data sets since 1988 are available as public-use files from the NSO, making it possible to study what has been happening to child labor over time. This report utilizes the quarterly LFS data files from 1988 to 2000. The availability of LFS data from 1988 and on a quarterly basis should provide good time-series information about child employment. Unfortunately, unlike the one-shot NSWC of 1995, neither the LFS nor the APIS provide information about labor market activity of children in the 5-9 age group. This makes any reference to the behavior of child participation in the labor market over time applicable only to the 10-14 and 15-17 age groups. Since child labor based on the ILO-IPEC definition connotes something more than the mere employment of children, using the estimates of working children based on the various survey data will tend to overstate the incidence of child labor. On the other hand, to the extent that survey data are not able to fully capture information regarding the nature and consequences of children’s labor market activity, the more restrictive definition that considers only work that is “hazardous or deleterious” is bound to understate child labor incidence. Work that is potentially injurious to young workers can be determined by using information about industry affiliation or occupation of the child worker. D.O. 4 lists such industries or occupations where individuals below 18 years old are not supposed to be employed, so it is possible to know the extent of child employment in these industries or occupations by simply matching this information with the survey data. However, the survey data may not be rich enough to provide information regarding work performed by those below 15 years old that is unsupervised by parents or guardians, where employers have no provisions for protecting the children’s health, safety and morals, or where the occupation or place of work can be used to conceal practices inimical to the welfare and normal development of children (e.g. prostitution, employer abuse of domestic workers). The above sources of under- and overstatement of actual child labor incidence should be borne in mind when examining the data on child employment.7 3.2 Observations from Survey Data

Based on LFS data, the number of children of ages 5-17 increased from 18.8 million in 1988 to 24.3 million in 2000. Of these, those in the 10-17 age group numbered 11.4 million in 1988 and 15.3 million in 2000. The breakdown by age group is shown in Table 3.1.
Table 3.1: Number of children, by age group


For a good discussion of measurement issues related to child labor, see Anker (2000).


1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000

5 to 9 7,577,516 7,327,886 7,251,889 8,693,352 7,977,777 8,503,273 8,624,022 8,380,324 8,814,809 9,107,647 9,039,201 9,147,192 9,850,870

10 to 14 7,154,945 7,356,739 7,511,857 7,578,610 7,267,071 7,672,120 7,719,558 7,595,418 8,201,806 8,300,885 8,539,601 8,939,190 10,095,934

15 to 17 4,251,832 4,290,715 4,421,940 4,477,104 4,398,544 4,780,701 5,065,347 5,139,033 5,159,927 5,234,243 5,248,209 5,279,075 5,263,177

5 to 17 18,844,171 19,036,351 14,327,374 19,931,811 20,457,181 20,937,830 21,194,998 21,302,563 21,877,532 22,460,634 22,809,624 23,205,845 24,141,394

Note: Entries pertain to averages for Q1, Q3, and Q4.

The number of employed children (aged 10-17) decreased between 1988 and 2000 from 2.1 million to 1.8 million. This is also reflected in the trends of both the 10-14 and 15-17 age groups shown in Figure 3.1.
Figure 3.1
Trends in Child Work

10 to 14
2.5 Level (in million) 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 88 89 90 91 92 93

15 to 17

10 to 17








A comparison of the LFS data for 1995 with the NSWC data shows a discrepancy, with the latter reporting a much higher number of employed children. The NSWC’s estimate of working children in the 10-14 age group is almost twice (1.95) that of the LFS figure, while that of the 15-17 age group is about 30 percent higher. Table 3.2: Comparison of NSWC and LFS Estimates of Working Children, 1995
Age Group 5-9 10-14 15-17 NSWC 214,895 1,600,332 1,762,136 LFS no data 818,705 1,350,351


The succeeding three charts (Figures 3.2 – 3.4) show the incidence of child labor by age group and gender during 1988-2000. In general, the incidence of child labor is higher among males than females and higher for the 15-17 age group than for the 10-14 group. For all groups, moreover, there is a tendency for incidence to shoot up drastically during the second quarter, which coincides with the summer months when school is out and many are available for both part-time and full-time employment. For males in the 10-17 age group, incidence of work is close to, though still largely under, 20 percent, except for the second quarter when incidence sometimes exceeds 25 percent. For females in the same age category, incidence has been generally under 15 percent, though much higher during the second quarter of the year. In the last two quarters of 2000, incidence fell to below 10 percent.
Figure 3.2

Incidence of Child Work for 10-17 age group, by sex
0.35 0.30 0.25


0.20 0.15 0.10 0.05



Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000

Male child labor incidence in the 10-14 age group has stayed generally within the 15 percent level, while incidence for females has been below 10 percent. During the second quarter, however, when child labor incidence shows a tendency to rise drastically, the incidence for females has not exceeded 15 percent, while that for males has exceeded 20 percent on at least two occasions.


Figure 3.3

Incidence of Child Work for 10-14 age group, by sex








Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000

The incidence of employment among males aged 15-17 has generally been higher than 30 percent. During the period 1988-2000, the incidence for this group fell below 30 percent only in the first quarter of 1990 and the last two quarters of 2000. On the other hand, incidence for females was at least 20 percent before 1994 thereafter falling to less than 20 percent, except during the second quarter of the year. Figure 3.4
Incidence of Child Work for 15-17 age group, by sex








Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 Q1 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000

During the period 1988-2000, there was a slight decrease in the share of the 10-14 age group in child employment. About 35 percent of children who were reported employed in 2000 came from this age group, the rest from the 15-17 age group. In 1988, the corresponding figure for the 10-14 age group was 37 percent, while the ratio was about the same in 1996. The NSWC,


on the other hand, gives a higher (lower) estimate of the share of the 10-14 (15-17) age group at 47 (53) percent.
Figure 3.5
Share to Total Child Employment, by age group and sex
80.0 70.0 60.0 Males (10-14) Males (15-17) Females (10-14) Females (15-17)

in percent

50.0 40.0 30.0 20.0 10.0 0.0







The share of females in child employment also decreased between 1988 and 2000 for both age groups. In 2000, females comprised 33 percent of children employed in the 10-17 age group down from 36 percent in 1988 and 34 percent in 1996. Figure 3.5 shows the pattern for the 10-14 and 15-17 age groups. In 2000, the share of females in child employment for the 10-14 group was 32 percent showing a decline from 36 percent in 1988 and 1996. For the 15-17 age group, the share of females declined from 36 percent in 1988 to 33 percent in 2000. Conversely, the share of males in child employment increased between 1988-2000. Differentiation by gender and age is evident with respect to occupation, sector of employment, class of worker and job status of child workers. Females in the 10-14 age group are employed primarily as agricultural workers (Figure 3.6). The same is true for their male counterparts. The second most dominant occupation for the same age group for both sexes is sales. For the 15-17 age group, females are employed primarily as service workers, with agricultural, animal husbandry, and forestry-related occupations coming second (Figure 3.7). In the case of males of ages 15-17 years, most of them are employed as agricultural workers, or in production and transport related jobs.


Figure 3.6

Top 4 Major Occupational Categories for 10-14 age group in year 2000, by sex
90.0 80.0 70.0 60.0



in percent

50.0 40.0 30.0 20.0 10.0 0.0
sales workers service workers agricultural, animal husbandry and forest production and related workers, transport

Figure 3.7

Top 4 Major Occupational Categories for 15-17 age group in year 2000, by sex
80.0 70.0 60.0



in percent

50.0 40.0 30.0 20.0 10.0 0.0
sales workers service workers agricultural, animal husbandry and forest production and related workers, transport

While the dominance of agriculture-related occupations for males in the 15-17 age category is consistent through 1988-2000, these occupations alternated with services-related occupations as the dominant form of employment for women during the same period. Women were employed primarily in agriculture-related occupations in 1988-1990, as service workers in 1991, as agriculture-related workers in 1992-1996, and then again primarily as service workers in 1997-2000. Worth noting here is the fact that most young women found employment in the services sector during the relatively bad years. When employment opportunities are scarce in agriculture, it is possible that young female members of the household, who are mainly secondary


workers, turn to service-related employment that requires very little skills or capital in order to contribute to household income. In the 10-14 category, while agriculture-related occupations employed the most women throughout 1988-2000, it was only in 1995 when sales became the second most important type of work. Previous to this, service-related occupations constituted the second major form of work performed by female children in the 10-14 age group. In terms of sector of employment, the agricultural, fishery and forestry sector was the major employer of male child workers for both age categories throughout 1988-2000. For females, on the other hand, the agriculture and related sectors was the principal sector of employment only for the 10-14 age group. Female child laborers of ages 15-17 are employed largely in the community, social and personal services sectors. Reflecting the trend described above, this sector alternated with the agriculture sector as the principal absorber of workers aged 15-17 in the period 1988-1995. Figures 3.8 and 3.9 show the sectoral distribution for the two age groups by sex.
Figure 3.8
Top 4 Major Sectors for 10-14 age group in year 2000, by sex
90.0 80.0 70.0 60.0



in percent

50.0 40.0 30.0 20.0 10.0 0.0 agricultural, animal husbandry and forestry manufacturing wholesale and retail trade community, social and personal services


Figure 3.9
Top 4 Major Sectors for 15-17 age group in year 2000, by sex
80.0 70.0 60.0



in percent

50.0 40.0 30.0 20.0 10.0 0.0 agricultural, animal husbandry and forestry manufacturing wholesale and retail trade community, social and personal services

While the share of unpaid family workers (UFW) among males and females in 2000 is roughly equal in the 10-14 age group, the share of UFWs among males is higher than among females in the 15-17 age group. For the latter age group, more than 60 percent of women are employed as wage and salary workers (WSW), quite a drastic increase from the 26 percent share of WSWs among females in the 10-14 age category. While the share of UFWs is lower for males in 15-17 category than in the 10-14 age group, it is still significant at 50 percent. Table 3.3: Child Workers by Class of Worker, Sex and Age Group, 2000 In percent Class of Worker 10-14 15-17 Male Female Male 71.9 70.4 50.7 Unpaid Family Worker 6.6 3.4 9.8 Own Account Worker 21.5 26.1 39.5 Wage and Salary Worker 100.0 100.0 100.0 Total

Female 35.4 3.7 60.9 100.0

Source: Labor Force Survey, 2000. Figures are based on average for three quarters.

In the 10-14 age group, the greater number of UFWs among males and females are employed in the agriculture sector and in wholesale and retail trade, while the agriculture and community, social and personal service sectors accounted for most of the WSWs (Table 3.4). The community, social and personal services sector, however, is the primary source of employment for female WSWs, whereas the greater number of male WSWs are in the agriculture sector. Ownaccount workers (OAW), which comprise the remaining category (about 3 percent for females and 7 percent for males) are primarily in agriculture and wholesale and retail trade, too. In the 15-17 age group, the agricultural sector accounts for the majority of WSWs and UFWs among males. For females in the same age group, the bulk of WSWs are in the community, social and personal services sector followed by wholesale and retail trade and


agriculture. The agriculture sector remains an important source of employment for female UFWs, however, with wholesale and retail trade coming in second (Table 3.5). By nature of employment, the share of permanent workers and seasonal/casual workers among employed children in the 10-14 age group is about the same at 45 percent each for both males and females. For ages 15-17, the share of permanent workers increases for both groups, although much more for females than males. Because the LFS classifies workers who have worked continuously for a year as permanent, what this means is that females tend to find more regular employment than males once they reach age 15. Permanent workers among males and females of ages 10-14 can be found mostly in the agriculture-related occupations (Table 3.6). The same is true for seasonal/casual workers. A significant share of these two types of workers from both sexes can also be found in sales occupations, although the share of sales workers among permanent workers is higher for females than males in this age group. Aside from agriculture, the second biggest employer of male permanent workers is the wholesale and retail trade sector, whereas in the case of female permanent workers aged 10-14, it is the community, social and personal services sector. For the 15-17 age group, close to 70 percent of male permanent workers are employed in agriculture-related occupations (Table 3.7). The importance of the agriculture sector seems to be evident even in the case of seasonal/casual workers and daily workers among males. Female permanent and seasonal/casual workers are employed largely as sales and service workers. A major share (75 percent) of female daily workers, however, is in agriculture-related occupations.


Table 3.4: Distribution of working children with ages from 10-14 by class of worker and industry affiliation and sex Major Industry group Males Females Wage and Own Unpaid Wage and Own Unpaid salary account family salary account family workers workers workers workers workers workers Agricultural, animal husbandry and forestry 72.68 Mining and quarrying 0.92 Manufacturing 5.16 Electricity, gas and water 0.27 Construction 1.18 Wholesale and retail trade 6.90 Transportation, storage and communication 2.46 Financing, insurance, real estate and business 0.61 services Community, social and personal services 9.82 Total 100.00 71.05 0.38 3.46 0.00 0.13 14.24 3.87 0.00 6.87 100.00 86.73 0.35 3.10 0.06 0.05 8.42 0.37 0.14 0.77 100.00 37.31 0.00 4.47 0.00 0.00 8.43 0.00 0.00 49.80 100.00 45.94 1.73 16.83 0.00 0.00 30.50 0.00 0.00 7.82 100.00 68.75 0.27 4.93 0.00 0.00 23.80 0.00 0.00 2.32 100.00


Table 3.5: Distribution of working children with ages from 15-17 by class of worker and industry affiliation and sex Major Industry group Males Females Wage and Own Unpaid Wage and Own Unpaid salary account family salary account family workers workers workers workers workers workers Agricultural, animal husbandry and forestry 52.68 Mining and quarrying 0.76 Manufacturing 8.98 Electricity, gas and water 0.12 Construction 9.09 Wholesale and retail trade 8.64 Transportation, storage and communication 7.10 Financing, insurance, real estate and business services 0.49 Community, social and personal services 12.15 Total 100.00 61.66 1.02 3.70 0.00 0.59 13.17 13.14 0.60 6.11 100.00 86.62 0.19 3.25 0.08 0.11 7.64 0.70 0.08 1.34 100.00 11.69 0.00 10.16 0.10 0.32 12.80 0.37 0.23 64.33 100.00 28.80 0.95 8.15 0.00 0.00 46.39 6.19 0.00 9.51 100.00 59.68 0.29 6.56 0.00 0.00 29.27 0.00 0.23 3.98 100.00


Table 3.6: Distribution of 10-14 year olds by nature of employment and occupation and sex Males Females Major OccupationPermanent Short-term/ Worked Permanent Short-term/ Worked group Seasonal/ daily seasonal/ Daily Casual casual Professional, 0.30 technical and related workers Administrative, 0.00 executive and managerial workers Clerical and related0.18 workers Sales workers 7.37 Service workers 3.46 Agricultural, animal82.48 husbandry and forestry workers Production and6.20 related workers, transportation Total 100.00 0.19 0.00 0.08 0.46 0.00






0.15 10.01 2.88 80.29

0.00 1.61 2.00 92.16

0.53 18.06 23.94 52.65

0.61 21.97 11.81 59.65

0.00 2.79 8.99 86.40












Table 3.7: Distribution of 15-17 year olds by nature of employment and occupation and sex Males Females Major Permanent Short-term/ Worked Permanent Short-term/ Worked Occupation Seasonal/ Daily seasonal/ Daily group Casual casual Professional, 0.18 technical and related workers Administrative, 0.18 executive and managerial workers Clerical and1.09 related workers Sales workers 8.21 Service workers 5.66 68.63 Agricultural, animal husbandry and forestry workers Production and16.05 related workers, transportation Total 100.00 0.16 0.67 0.24 0.23 1.35






1.27 7.77 4.21 68.77

0.42 0.72 2.52 81.02

0.89 17.81 54.15 19.29

1.10 24.79 26.91 35.71

0.00 2.97 16.91 74.63












Turning to the issue of hazardous employment, Table 3.8 shows the number of working children employed in hazardous and non-hazardous work based on the labor department’s D.O. 4 definition. Based on APIS 1998 data, 64 percent of the 2.2 million working children are employed in hazardous work. The data also show that more than 80 percent of children engaged in hazardous jobs are in the rural areas. These hazardous jobs are predominantly in the agriculture and fishing sector where children are employed as agricultural and animal husbandry workers or fishermen. Table 3.8: Children in Hazardous and Non-hazardous Occupations, Number and Percent Share Non-hazardous Percent Hazardous Percent Total Urban 290,956 37.4 195,149 14.1 486,105 Percent 59.9 40.1 100.0 Rural 487,103 62.6 1,193,580 85.9 1,680,683 Percent 29.0 71.0 100.0 Total 778,059 100.0 1,388,729 100.0 2,166,788 Percent 35.9 64.1 100.0
Source: Alonzo and Edillon (2002) as estimated from APIS 1998

Table 3.9 shows the regional distribution of working children according to job risk classification. Northern Mindanao and Western Visayas, which account for the highest shares of working children, also account for the highest shares of working children employed in hazardous work. The National Capital Region (NCR) accounts for less than 1 percent of children in hazardous employment perhaps due to its being more progressive relative to the rest of the regions. Labor standards related to employment of minors are also more likely to be easier to enforce in a high-income region where the tolerance for child labor may be lower. Table 3.9: Regional Distribution of Working Children in Hazardous Employment Region Number Percent Share1 Percent Share2 88,406 6.37 79.4 Ilocos 102,685 7.39 87.5 Cagayan Valley 58,982 4.25 55.5 Cental Luzon 93,192 6.71 54.1 Southern Tagalog 105,403 7.59 51.3 Bicol 132,735 9.56 59.0 Western Visayas 96,545 6.95 58.8 Central Visayas 72,243 5.20 54.4 Eastern Visayas 105,058 7.57 85.2 Western Mindanao 180,521 13.00 77.5 Northern Mindanao 127,902 9.21 61.3 Southern Mindanao 87,612 6.31 76.9 Central Mindanao 12,747 0.92 18.9 NCR 34,473 2.48 85.7 CAR 33,992 2.45 56.2 ARMM 56,233 4.05 65.7 CARAGA 1,388,729 100.00 64.1 Total
As a proportion of all children working in hazardous occupations. As a proportion of working children in the region/nation. Source: Alonzo and Edillon (2002) as estimated from APIS 1998.
2 1


The above information should be useful in determining the allocation of resources for programs to address child labor. Consideration should be given not only to those regions that account for a relatively greater proportion of children in hazardous work, but also to those where child employment is predominantly hazardous. The last column of Table 3.9 gives the number of children in hazardous employment per region as a proportion of total working children in each region. Cagayan Valley, CAR and Western Mindanao have more than 80 percent of their working children laboring under conditions considered injurious or potentially harmful even while each of these regions accounts for less than 8 percent of total children employed in hazardous work. This suggests that, if implemented in these regions, programs to address child labor have a good chance of reducing the incidence of the more harmful forms. 4. Causes of Child Labor

Research on the determinants of child labor depends largely on the availability of systematic data on its incidence. With few exceptions, most research done in the Philippines have been based on case studies usually covering a specific activity in a specific geographical area. Del Rosario and Bonga (2000) provide a review of studies conducted in the Philippines for the period 1986-1995. Though informative about the actual conditions of working children in specific areas and in particular occupations, such studies need to be complemented by research that examines empirical regularities over a larger population that includes both working and non-working children. This section first sketches a conceptual framework for understanding the causes of child labor. Using a nationally representative set of household survey data, it then sets out to test empirically a number of hypotheses about the possible causes of child labor in the Philippine context. 4.1 Conceptual Framework

The decision to allow a child to participate in the labor market can be formally analyzed in the context of decision-making within the household.8 A child’s non-leisure time will be allocated among schooling, home production or market work depending upon several factors. Among these are household size and structure (e.g. number of adults in the household, the birth order of the child, sex composition), the child’s productive potential as well as the parents’ in both domestic and market work, and substitution possibilities between the child and his parents. Given an income constraint, household size and the probability of child work will be directly related through the impact of reduced schooling investment that leads to lower educational participation of the child. Indeed the interaction among fertility, schooling, and child work is an important one in models of household decision-making. The magnitude of the effect of household size on the probability that a child will work may vary, however, depending upon external factors such as the level of socio-economic development in the household’s geographic location or the level of government expenditures on social services. Cultural and societal norms may be an important factor explaining the phenomenon of child work. As Anker (2000) notes: “condemnation of child labor by society co-exists with other seemingly contradictory attitudes” (p. 257). In certain societies, child work is part of the socialization process and is highly valued for imparting discipline and survival skills to the young. Indeed, in Philippine society, children who contribute early to financially supporting their families are a source of pride. On the other hand, Filipino children tend to derive a sense of

For a good survey of the literature, see Basu (1999) and Grootaert and Kanbur (1995).


fulfillment from being able to contribute to their family’s financial survival. The issue, however, seems to be the degree of tolerance certain cultures or societies have for child work that hinders a child’s normal development. But even in this case, what constitutes a “normal” childhood is to some extent based on social status. It would be safe to say that tolerance for child labor is circumscribed by the level of economic development of the society as well as the degree of deprivation of its members. Two important relationships that have been identified in empirical studies of school attendance are the substitutability between girls’ schooling and the labor force participation of mothers and the positive effect of parents’ education (especially mother’s) and household income on enrolment. These relationships imply that child labor in low-income households would tend to rise as young girls are forced to quit school and attend to domestic work to substitute for their mothers who have entered the labor force. As income rises, and the income effect of higher wages for the mother overcomes the substitution effect, child labor may be expected to decrease. Again the magnitude of these effects will vary from one place to another according to the prevailing social conditions and cultural norms. Mother’s level of education has been found to have a strong effect on the likelihood of a child staying in school on account of the tendency among mothers to attach a higher value to educating the children. Aside from fertility behavior which positively influences the supply of child labor, the imperative to manage risk arising from adverse income shocks is another reason for allowing children to work. Without access to formal credit and insurance markets as well as publicly sponsored schemes for social protection, poor households typically resort to informal credit or various other means of income support or transfers, such as those from the extended family, neighbors and friends. While these mechanisms may offer some protection from idiosyncratic risks, they are inadequate for dealing with income shocks that affect the entire community, province, region, or country. The household is, therefore, compelled to dip into its assets, the most abundant being its labor power. The need to augment household income as well as minimize the adverse effects of disruptions in the income stream provides an explanation for the observed prevalence of child labor among poor households. The important factors on the demand side relate to the structure of the labor market and the existing production technology that provide incentives for substitution between adult and child labor. Completely flexible wages in competitive markets can, in principle, encourage substitution of children for adults.9 Basu and Van (1998), for instance, argue that a labor market may be characterized by multiple equilibria, one in which wages are low and children work and another in which wages are high and children do not work. In this scenario, a ban on child labor that causes adult wages to rise will induce parents to withdraw their children from the labor market making the ban superfluous. For the same reason, a wage floor imposed by whatever means will discourage employment of children by firms assuming higher productivity of adults. While both a state ban on child labor and a legislated minimum wage can, in principle, be expected to lead to the same result, the effectiveness of one over the other in deterring child labor is more difficult to assess in practice. In many developing countries, the informal sector can be quite significant and its breadth is an important determinant of the demand for child labor. Recent times have also witnessed the process of breaking up enterprises into smaller units or subcontracting to households or informal

This may fail to apply, however, where child workers are primarily unpaid family workers.


enterprises in order to economize on labor costs. This process, referred to as informalization of production methods, can be expected to increase the demand for child labor. The demand for child labor will tend to be high in those activities that are labor-intensive or that use fairly simple or backward technology requiring only a low level of skills to perform the job. Such is the case in agriculture and the low-end service industries. The same is true, however, even with some of the modern technology that is used for producing highly standardized products. For example, the use of relatively inexpensive and versatile sewing machines in the manufacture of ready-to-wear garments has made home production possible via subcontracting arrangements. Child labor will also tend to be demanded where nimbleness and flexibility are desired attributes as in work in the mines where adults are likely to find difficulty crawling through small tunnels. 4.2 Empirical Tests

In this section, the results of empirical tests performed to analyze the determinants of child labor are presented. Two such tests were performed. The first seeks to explain the behavior of child labor incidence through time in terms of the performance of the economy. The second seeks to explain the household decision to allow a child to participate in the labor market in terms of the child’s characteristics, the household’s characteristics, and other variables characterizing the household environment. Child Labor Incidence and Economic Performance An ordinary least squares (OLS) equation is estimated of the form,

∆yt – t-1 = αt + β1∆URt – t-1 + ∑γit Xit + εt ,

i = 1, 2, 3

where ∆yt – t-1 is the change in child labor incidence between time t and t-1, ∆URt – t-1 is the change in the unemployment rate of prime-aged adults (35-44 years old) between two time periods, Xit is the quarterly growth rate of sector i in time t, α , β, and γ are parameters to be estimated and ε is an error term. The i sectors are the three sectors of the economy, agriculture, industry and services. From the theory discussed above, child labor incidence may be expected to exhibit a countercyclical trend, that is, it is expected to increase when the economy is not doing well and vice versa. In the present model, economic performance is measured by the change in the unemployment rate of prime-aged adults and the growth rate of the nine economic sectors. The first explanatory variable, ∆URt – t-1, is commonly used in aggregate labor supply models to capture the effect of economic fluctuations on labor force participation. The idea is that individuals between the ages of 35-44 have the most stable links with the economy so that changes in the unemployment rate in this age group over time can be used to track aggregate economic performance.10 The second set of variables includes real sectoral growth rates. They are introduced into the model to account for the possibility that child labor incidence may be more responsive to sectoral fluctuations rather than to changes in GDP or GNP.


It may be argued that in the Philippines, this variable ought to be defined over the 35-54 age group whose unemployment rate displays a fair amount of stability through time. This was actually tried but the results are not qualitatively different.


Using LFS and national income accounts data, the model is estimated over 51 quarters11 from 1988 to 2000 separately for males and females in each of three age categories, 10-14, 15-17, and 10-17 years old. This is done in view of the observation in the preceding section that child labor incidence may have an important gender component and that it may be responding to different influences depending on the age group and gender. The econometric results are reported in Table 4.1. The sign of ∆URt – t-1 for both sexes and all age groups is opposite what was expected, although all statistically insignificant. The statistically significant explanatory variables are the sectoral growth rates. The growth performance of the three sectors consistently explains child labor incidence in all six equations. In addition, the economic performance of the industry and services sectors tends to have rather strong effects on the occurrence of child labor as may be observed from the size of the coefficients. The empirical results show that child labor incidence tends to increase as growth in the agriculture and industry sectors declines. A number of reasons may be advanced to explain this negative relationship. First, the two sectors each account for a substantial portion of domestic production. In a way, their economic performance during any given period largely determines how the entire economy fares. Secondly, the two sectors also employ more than half of the adult labor force. A decline in the performance of these two sectors would thus result in significant unemployment and reduced incomes for those that depend on them, thus motivating households to send their children to work. Workers in the manufacturing sector, which makes up the bulk of industry, are, for instance, mostly fixed wage earners who are vulnerable to income shocks. Perhaps a third reason is that agriculture accounts for a significant number of the poor. Their low incomes make them extremely vulnerable to an economic decline or slowdown in the sector, thereby making it necessary to draw on their “reserve asset”, the labor power of children. But even for low-income households that do not depend on agriculture for their income, a decline in agricultural growth means higher food prices and reduced purchasing power. Allowing children to work is one way to augment household income. The positive relationship between aggregate child labor incidence and the growth of the services sector is consistent with its “employer-of-last-resort” role. The services sector is host to many informal enterprises and activities characterized by low productivity and pay, often using unskilled labor, whether family or hired. An increase in the activity of the sector is thus likely to be associated with an increasing incidence of child labor. In order to be consistent with the results for agriculture and industry, however, it is important to see how the growth of the services sector relates to the performance of the other two. Compared with industry and agriculture, growth in services has not exhibited wide swings. During periods of declining GDP, the sector has usually displayed a higher rate of growth than the aggregate. The services sector thus cushions the fall in GDP during periods of marked decline in agriculture and/or industry. This may be partly on account of individuals and/or households being able to move into various services sector activities to compensate for falling incomes or lost employment in industry or agriculture.12 Thus, child labor incidence in the aggregate rises as the services sector grows coincident with declines in both agriculture and industry.

11 12

No labor force survey was conducted in April 1990, so that the total number of quarters is as it is. During the Asian crisis, for example, a net increase in jobs was observed even while aggregate output fell in 1998. The increase came from the services sector. See de Dios (1999).


The size of the estimated coefficients for males and females and for the two age groups is also worth noting. Female child labor exhibits a greater responsiveness to economic performance for all age groups as shown by the higher coefficient estimates among females. Male children in poor families are already working so that the marginal effect of an adverse income shock on child labor incidence would be more pronounced for young girls than for boys. Furthermore, during periods of economic decline when opportunities are largely limited to jobs in the services sector, females may enjoy an edge over males in being hired either because of suitability for the job or employers’ preferences. For both sexes, child labor incidence for those between the ages 10-14 is also more responsive to changes in economic performance compared with that for the 15-17 group. Presumably, this is because some individuals belonging to the latter group would be working anyway regardless of how the economy fares. Thus, the stronger effect of the economy on those aged 10-14 may be an indication of an underlying behavior with respect to the labor participation of children, namely, that families try to avoid sending younger children to work unless forced by economic hardship. Table 4.1: Child Labor Incidence and Economic Performance Variable Constant ∆URt – t-1 Agriculture Industry Services R2 F-statistic D.W. statistic. Age 10-17 Male 0.17689 (0.1372) -3.78595 (3.0241) -0.70376 (0.1246)* -3.27733 (0.4327)* 4.97042 (0.5253) * 0.6732 22.6608 2.7172 Age 10-14 Male 0.36413 (0.2254) -6.92639 (4.9675) -1.18621 (0.2048)* -5.39635 (0.7108)* 7.90923 (0.8629)* 0.6620 21.5480 2.5269 Age 15-17 Male 0.05968 (0.1103) -1.63566 (2.4319) -0.43551 (0.1002)* -1.94196 (0.3480)* 3.22751 (0.4224)* 0.5766 14.9775 2.2434

Female 0.19708 (0.1682) -4.09605 (3.7073) -1.07117 (0.1528)* -4.11621 (0.5305)* 6.93230 (0.6440)* 0.7287 29.5427 2.6399

Female 0.38786 (0.2582) -7.12300 (5.6904) -1.64260 (0.2345)* -6.43687 (0.8143)* 10.41926 (0.9885)* 0.7199 28.2676 2.5307

Female 0.05601 (0.1355) -1.50755 (2.9858) -0.75499 (0.1231)* -2.57248 (0.4273)* 4.79039 (0.5187)* 0.6720 22.5406 2.3761

Standard errors are in parentheses.

* - Significant at 1 percent level

Determinants of Child Labor at the Household Level To analyze the underlying causes of child labor at the household level, a binary logit model is used. This model belongs to a general class of probability models that allows analysis of qualitative choices. Consider the household decision to either allow a child to participate in the labor market or not. If a child is observed to work, a value of 1 is assigned to the dependent variable (y = 1), otherwise, y = 0. A set of factors is believed to explain the household’s decision that includes the characteristics of the child, the characteristics of the household or some of its members, and other factors in the household’s external environment, such as the level of development of the locality and the availability of basic services.

In its general form then, the model to be estimated is the following:


Prob (event j occurs) = Prob (y = j) = F[relevant factors; parameters], where F[…] follows the logistic distribution, eβ’x /(1 + eβ’x ), and where x is a vector of explanatory variables and β is a vector of parameters to be estimated. The direction in which the explanatory variables affect the dependent variable is determined from the signs of the estimated coefficients.13 The model is estimated using household data from the APIS of 1998. All members of households included in the survey from ages 5-17 were included in the estimation. A child is considered a working child or child laborer if he or she ever worked during the period covered by the survey, otherwise, he or she is not a child worker. Child characteristics included in the set of explanatory variables are: age, sex,, father’s highest educational attainment, and mother’s highest educational attainment. Household characteristics included are: family size (measured by the number of children in the family), number of adult family members, the employment status the household head (whether employed or unemployed), and the household’s poverty status as indicated by its position relative to a defined poverty threshold. The employment status of the household head is specified in terms of both the nature of employment (i.e. permanent, seasonal/casual, or daily worker) and worker classification (i.e. wage/salary worker, self-employed or unpaid family worker), the left-out category being the state of unemployment. Locational variables are also included for urbanity (i.e. whether the household lives in an urban or rural area), the region in which the household is located, and the extent of poverty in the province where the household resides. To account for the effects of government, social sector expenditures per capita and the human development priority ratio in each province for 1994 were also included. The latter includes expenditures on basic education, basic health care, and low-cost water supply as a ratio of GNP (Philippine Human Development Report, 1997). Table 4.2 gives the definitions and provides the descriptive statistics for the variables used to estimate the logit model. Table 4.3 shows the results of the estimation. A positive (negative) sign indicates that the explanatory variable increases (decreases) the probability that a household will decide to send a child-member to work. Table 4.2: Variable Definitions and Descriptive Statistics Variable Dependent variable Child is working Explanatory variables Age Sex Definition Sample Mean 0.087 Standard Deviation 0.282

1 if child ever worked during survey period, 0 otherwise age of the child in years sex of child,1 if male, 0 otherwise

10.7 0.52

3.673 0.499


The marginal effect of a change in the value of each of the regressors on the dependent variable cannot be directly known from the estimated coefficients of this model, however, unlike in the standard regression model.


Variable Mother’s educational attainment Father’s educational attainment Family size Number of adults






Self-employed Employer/operator of household Business

Unpaid family worker

Domestic worker

Household is poor

Region Urbanity Province among the 10 poorest

Province among the 10 least poor

Sample Mean 1 if completed high school, 0 0.54 otherwise 1 if completed high school, 0 0.53 otherwise number of children 4.61 number of household members 3.53 other than the parents of age 18 and above 1 if household head is 0.80 employed as permanent worker, 0 otherwise 1 if household head is 0.10 employed as seasonal worker, 0 otherwise 1 if household head is 0.04 employed as daily worker, 0 otherwise 1 if household head is 0.33 employed in private firm, 0 otherwise 1 if household head is 0.08 employed in government, 0 otherwise 1 if household head is self- 0.39 employed, 0 otherwise 1 if household head is an 0.07 employer or operates a household business, 0 otherwise 1 if household head is 0.01 employed as an unpaid family worker, 0 otherwise 1 if household head is 0.03 employed as a domestic worker, 0 otherwise 1 if household expenditures in 0.68 1997 is below the computed poverty line, 0 otherwise 1 if household resides in NCR, 0.07 0 otherwise 1 if household resides in urban 0.55 area, 0 otherwise 1 if province ranks among top 0.09 10 in poverty incidence, 0 otherwise 1 if province ranks among 0.21 lowest 10 in poverty incidence, 0 otherwise


Standard Deviation 0.498 0.499 2.275 1.964






0.488 0.252




0.253 0.498 0.294



Variable Per capita social expenditure

Human development priority ratio

Sample Mean level of real social 98.94 expenditures per capita in the province in 1994 ratio of human development 10.60 expenditures per capita in the province to GNP in 1994


Standard Deviation 58.853


The econometric results in Table 4.3 generally provide support for the expectation based on theoretical claims in household models that, everything else the same, child labor is more likely to be observed among families with many children. In the first place, having many dependents implies a heavier burden for the main breadwinner. Thus, at some point, if a family is of limited means, family members who are not quite adults yet may be called upon to help earn the family’s keep. The result is also consistent with the notion of child labor as a strategy to cope with unexpected shortfalls in income brought about by exogenous shocks. Ceteris paribus, a family with more children is better positioned to adjust to these shocks being abundant in the labor power of its members that can be sold, when necessary, to ensure the family’s financial survival. The probability of a child working is positively related to his age. As the child advances in years, the more he is expected to contribute to household income. Among poor Filipino families, it is typical for older children to work, even to quit school, in order to help support their younger siblings. Thus, the positive relationship between age and the probability of child labor may be due to both the desire on the part of the individual to augment family income and the pressure to do so coming from other household members as the child increasingly acquires the capacity to work. On the demand side, employers may prefer older children to the extent that they can be relied upon to perform a greater variety of physically demanding tasks. The number of adult family members exerts a negative influence on the probability that a child will be made to work. This suggests that households follow a pecking order as to who among its members will work; adult members are expected to work first while market work for children is avoided as much as possible. If children need to work, however, the older ones are the more likely candidates as indicated by the positive relationship between the probability of child work and age. Table 4.3: Logit Regression Results for Child Labor Determinants at Household Level Explanatory variables Age Sex Mother’s educational attainment Father’s educational attainment Family size Number of adults Permanent Seasonal Daily Private Coefficient 0.354 0.905 -0.439 -0.395 0.107 -0.082 -0.153 -0.212 0.221 -0.289 Standard Error 0.008* 0.047* 0.052* 0.054* 0.010* 0.013* 0.164 0.167 0.182 0.127*


Explanatory variables Government Self-employed Employer/operator of household Business Unpaid family worker Domestic worker Household is poor Region Urbanity Province among the 10 poorest Province among the 10 least poor Per capita social expenditure Human development priority ratio Constant No. of Observations 43,592 Log likelihood -10616.46 Wald chi2 3097.17 Pseudo R2 0.2458

Coefficient -0.472 0.279 0.273 0.369 -0.764 0.203 -0.430 -0.454 -0.308 -0.560 -0.003 -0.011 -6.420

Standard Error 0.166* 0.126* 0.140* 0.301 0.200* 0.059* 0.152* 0.048* 0.088* 0.075* 0.001* 0.002* 0.189*

Significant at 1 percent level.

Child workers are more likely to be male than female as the regression results show. The preponderance of agriculture-related jobs and the tendency to assign predominantly manual tasks to male family members probably account for this result. The observation that girls generally tend to have a higher rate of school attendance than boys at all stages (PHDR, 1997) may also have something to do with the higher likelihood for child workers to be male. The educational attainment of both parents, measured in terms of whether they completed high school, is negatively related to the probability of child work. This variable can be viewed as a proxy for the family’s income or earning capacity given the link between human capital investment and income. The variable, father’s educational attainment, presumably captures the effect of human capital investment on family income more than anything else. However, it is possible that the negative effect of mother’s educational attainment also incorporates the effect of other factors, such as the higher valuation that educated mothers attach to educational investments in children as well their more informed judgment about the potentially undesirable consequences of work on the schooling, health, and safety of children. Whether the household head is employed or not has different effects on the probability that a child will work. The probability of a child working is lower if the household head is employed in a private firm, in government or as a domestic worker rather than if he were unemployed. However, the probability of a child working is higher if the household head is selfemployed or operates a household enterprise than if he were unemployed. In other words, unemployment among adults increases the likelihood that children will work, except in the case where the jobs arise out of self-employment, usually in the context of a household, where family labor is often employed, but also where income is highly variable. In the latter case, children have a higher probability of working than if they belonged to households where the head is jobless. Whether the household head is employed as a permanent, seasonal or daily worker, however, does not significantly differ from being unemployed with respect to its effect on the probability of that a child will work.


Poverty is an important predictor of child labor. Children in households whose incomes fall below the computed poverty threshold are more likely to work than otherwise. This result supports the luxury axiom advanced by Basu and Van (1998). According to this claim, parents are normally altruistic towards their children, sending them to the labor market “only if the family’s income from non-child-labor sources drops very low” (p. 416). Locational variables also showed up significant. The negative sign for urbanity means that child labor has a higher probability of being observed in rural areas where poverty is deeper, most economic activities are agricultural and family-labor-using, and anti-child-labor laws are more difficult to enforce. Child labor also has a higher probability of being observed in regions other than the National Capital Region as indicated by the negative and significant sign of the region dummy. In order to determine further the effect of locational characteristics on the probability of child labor, the extent of poverty in a province as measured by the provincial ranking in poverty incidence in 1997 was included. Provinces were classified according to whether they ranked among the lowest ten in poverty incidence, the highest ten, or neither. These categories were used to specify the dummy variable with the last category as the reference or base case. The results show that residence in a province with low poverty incidence (i.e. the province ranks among the lowest ten in poverty incidence) tends to reduce the probability that a child will work. However, residence in a province with high poverty incidence (i.e. the province ranks among the highest ten in poverty incidence) also has the same negative effect on the probability of observing child labor. Thus, while child labor is less likely to occur in relatively progressive provinces because families find no need for it, it is also less likely to be observed in very poor provinces, but here possibly on account of extremely limited economic opportunities. The level of social sector expenditures per capita in the province and the provincial human development priority ratio both try to capture the effect of government action on the occurrence of child labor. Social sector expenditures are comprised of expenditures on health, education, housing and community development and social welfare. On the other hand, the human development priority ratio is the ratio to GNP of a subset of social services expenditures. These are basic education, basic health care, and low cost water supply. Both variables are expected to contribute to poverty alleviation, and, therefore, reduce the need for low-income households to make their children work in order to afford these necessities. The econometric results show that the probability of child labor is reduced the higher is provincial spending per capita on social services and the higher is the proportion of spending on human development priorities in the province. In general, the above results support the major hypotheses regarding the causes of child labor and, more importantly, yield insights of practical significance for the formulation of policies to address the problem of child labor in the Philippines.


Consequences of Child Labor

The view that child labor is undesirable and should be eliminated owes much to the negative consequences that are associated with it. In fact, most studies of child labor in the Philippines have devoted considerable space to describing the less than ideal working conditions of children and the consequences of laboring under such conditions on their well-being. The


effects touch on the learning, health, psycho-social, and other aspects of children’s development and should be of both short- and long-term concern to policy. At least 38 studies and one national survey on child labor have been conducted in the Philippines since 198614. Without attempting to assess the adequacy of the methodologies employed by these studies, this report briefly summarizes (see Table 5.1) the various findings with respect to the schooling, health, and other effects of child labor. In general, the studies indicate that school attendance among child workers tends to be sacrificed. Although schooling can be combined with work in many instances, various factors like poverty and the conditions of work may prevent working children from either attending school or benefiting to any significant degree from doing so. Children laboring under hazardous conditions are also at great risk of getting injured or contracting various diseases. Psychological and emotional problems have also been noted among children working under extreme conditions. These effects have implications on the future productive capacity and earning potential of working children. The failure to invest in human capital now means that the working children of today will be the impoverished parents of tomorrow, bearing children who like them will also be pushed prematurely into the labor market to make ends meet. Child labor, especially the worst forms, tends to reproduce the very same conditions that brought it about. 5.1 Schooling Effects

According to the NSWC, about 35 percent or 1.3 million of the 3.6 million working children did not attend school in 1995. Of these, 72 percent were males. Based on the 1998 APIS, only half of the total reported working children were studying, which is considerably lower than the proportion for non-working children. Given the variety of situations faced by working children, it is difficult to form any conclusions based on this information about the exact relationship between child work and school attendance. For one thing, most child labor is found in rural areas where work is highly seasonal and not as time-intensive as regular work in the nonfarm sector. It is possible, therefore, that non-attendance in school could be due to other reasons such as the lack of schools in the locality or the general inaccessibility of education due to lack of finances. In this case, the inability to go to school may be less of a consequence and more likely to be a cause of child labor. From a maximizing perspective, time spent at work than at school has a higher return. Still, there is reason to believe that working children face a disadvantage in school because of the fact that they have to work. According to the 1995 NSWC, working children reported that work affected their performance at school, manifesting in low grades and difficulty in catching up with lessons. When school performance suffers as a result of work, leaving school becomes a likely option for working children. The relationship between child work, bad performance at school, and eventual nonattendance can take various routes as illustrated in many documented cases. In general, time divided between work and studying does not permit a child to focus on the latter, causing him to fall behind with his lessons and to get low grades. Conditions of work are, therefore, critical as they can affect a child’s readiness to tackle schoolwork. After fishing the whole night, for example, children involved in kubkub are too exhausted to go to school (ILO-IPEC, 2002). Physical exhaustion is also cited as the reason for non-attendance in school by child workers in

Studies included in Table 5.1 from 1986-1995 were culled from the review by Del Rosario and Bonga (2000).


the mining industry (Año, 2002). In Masbate and Camarines Sur, where some children have to work in the fishing and mining industries all days of the week and more than 10 hours a day, schooling is not an option at all (Orense, 1992). Work in sugarcane plantations during the peak season also prevents children from going to school, as observed by Sumagaysay (1992). Absenteeism is another problem that can cause working children to lag behind in school performance. This is the situation among child domestic workers who have to be frequently absent (Pacis, 2002), a likely consequence of the looseness of typical contracts for domestic work and the incentive among employers to take advantage of this given the generally docile tendency of children. Children involved in vending and prostitution are also prevented from attending school continuously because of the irregular schedule of their work (Magno, 1986). In the case of children in prostitution, Arcilla (2002) notes social ostracism as another factor that inhibits school participation. 5.2 Health Effects

According to the 1995 NSWC, some 630,000 of 3.6 million working children are exposed to one kind of physical danger or another while at work. These risks include the possibility of contracting disease, physical mutilation, involvement in a vehicular accident, or falling from high places. The risk of contracting a disease is particularly high among females. According to the same survey, the most common health-related problems experienced by working children are body pains (59 percent) and skin diseases (22 percent). Others reported eye strain, respiratory ailments, gastro-intestinal problems, and impaired hearing. The findings from the national survey reinforce observations derived from smaller surveys and case studies conducted at different times among specific groups of working children in particular industries in various parts of the country. These studies observed both general ailments that tended to afflict working children regardless of what activity they are involved in as well as specific ones that seem to be more strongly associated with the kind of work performed. In general, working children were observed to be underdeveloped and underweight and more susceptible to respiratory diseases (ILS, 1994). Studies of working children in fishing (Van Oosterhout, 1986; Rialp, 1993; ILO-IPEC, 2002), in mining (Estrella-Gust, 1997), in quarrying (Año, 2002; Veneracion, 1992), in garments production (del Rosario, 1987) and the wood industry (IIR, 1985), and in numerous street trades (ILS, 1994), including prostitution (Magno, 1986) invariably cite the occurrence of headaches, fever, cough and colds, chest and back pains, and various gastrointestinal problems. While it is not clear from many of these studies to what extent non-working children might have also experienced these symptoms, it seems reasonable to suppose that children are more liable to get sick if they are engaged in strenuous physical exertion, lack proper nutrition, and either work in unsanitary conditions or are exposed for extended periods to extreme changes in weather. In addition, working children are vulnerable to, or actually experienced, specific health disorders or abnormalities working in particular activities. Ruptured eardrums seem to be common among children engaged in muro-ami, kubkub, and pa-aling (Rialp, 1993; ILO-IPEC, 2002). Children employed in stonecutting are susceptible to heatstroke and various skin allergies because of marble dust (Año, 2002). Children in prostitution are especially prone to contracting sexually transmitted diseases and suffering from various physical injuries (Arcilla, 2001; Magno 1986).


Various physical injuries due to accidents, sometimes leading to death have also been noted among children working as haulers in Cordillera (Boquiren, 1989), as well as those employed in fishing (ILO-IPEC, 2002), in quarrying (Ano, 2002; Veneracion, 1992), in sugarcane production (Gonzaga, 1991), in abaca (Orense, 1992), and in pyrotechnics manufacturing (Año, 2002). The risk to health arising from continuous exposure to dangerous chemicals, explosives, pharmaceutical rejects and other unsafe items is especially high among children in scavenging (ILS, 1994). The same is true for those constantly exposed to various chemicals used in agriculture (ILS, 1994; Boquiren, 1987). In mining and mineral processing, children are similarly exposed to toxic chemicals such as mercury (Maramba et al, 1989; EstrellaGust, 1997). Whether the health outcomes and risks noted above are directly attributable to child labor is hard to tell on the basis of available information. In the first place, the questions about healthrelated problems and perceived risks in the 1995 NSWC were asked only among working children. The information collected also refers to just one point in time, confined to the employment or survey period. Thus, it is not possible to tell from the data whether working children are more predisposed to the illnesses and risks reported than non-working children (and adults, too)15, and if the working children were sickly even prior to employment. The attribution problem is compounded by the fact that children may also be engaged in several jobs while the questions about health outcomes and perceived risks are general, i.e. they do not pertain to a specific activity. These inadequacies are generally shared, though to a lesser extent, by the data from the various case studies. There are good reasons why society ought to be concerned with the consequences of work on children’s health and general well-being. Continuous exposure to various hazards in their work environments, especially chemical and biological ones that are invisible, places children’s health and lives at great risk. While adults working under the same conditions face similar risks – an argument for minimum health and safety regulations – children are especially vulnerable to work-related illnesses. Their yet undeveloped biological processes make their bodies less resistant to the chemicals and other toxic substances they are regularly exposed to. The lack of proper nutrition, so characteristic among the poor, moreover increases the vulnerability of working children to both the short- and long-term debilitating effects of work, which can cut short economically productive life. The foregoing reasons should not, however, preclude a more systematic approach to addressing the adverse consequences of child labor. From a policy perspective, it makes sense to ask which health-related outcomes are due to general poverty, which ones to child work, and which ones to specific forms of child labor. Given its nature as a survival strategy, eliminating child labor is bound to have negative consequences for poor households unless better alternatives are put in place. Quite realistically, however, the provision of quality basic education and the improvement in incomes and opportunities in the adult labor market cannot happen overnight, but can be achieved only in the context of a long-term strategy to promote growth and fight poverty. In the meantime, the government can ill-afford to use up society’s limited resources on poorly designed programs to eliminate child labor. This brings up the importance of tracing the negative consequences of child labor to specific activities, work environments, or even particular forms of child work. Such information can form the basis for alternative courses of action to deal with child labor.

It may be possible to compare the information on specific types of injuries or illnesses with industry averages, if these are available. However, such is beyond the scope of this study.



Conclusion What does the preceding discussion imply for action against child labor?

The protection of children, the promotion of their well-being and future development, and economic considerations, both short- and long-term, provide reasons to be concerned about child labor. But that these reasons should warrant the collective action of governments, international organizations, labor unions, and other non-governmental organizations suggests that parents are either remiss in their parental duty, or worse, are exploiting their own children. In other words, parents cannot be trusted to look after the welfare of their children. While this may be true in certain cases, it seems improbable given the massive scale in which child labor is occurring. Empirical evidence from the Philippines suggests instead that parents turn to child labor as a last resort, and at that, elect to send the younger children to work last. A more plausible explanation then is that families face severe constraints in the choices available to them. As Basu and Van (1998) argue: “…when we have children working as a mass phenomenon as in many less-developed countries, it is much more likely that this reflects not a difference in the attitude of the parents but the problem of stark poverty where the parents are compelled to send the children to work for reasons of survival.” (p. 413). Collective action against child labor should, therefore, concentrate on understanding the constraints faced by families and removing them, even while efforts are taken on the ground to withdraw children from hazardous work. This suggests a two-pronged approach to dealing with child labor. The first one involves a comprehensive set of policies and programs to promote economic growth, generate stable employment, and reduce poverty. The second involves welldesigned, focused interventions that may be implemented as separate programs, such as those dealing with specific worst forms of child labor. But even as special anti-child-labor programs attempt to protect children and remove them from hazardous employment, it is necessary for effectiveness and sustainability that these special programs incorporate aspects aimed at removing the constraints faced by poor households. Child work is fundamentally the outcome of decisions taken at the household level. The key is to weaken incentives among families to resort to child labor as a survival strategy. The main elements of a strategic response to the problem of child labor, here used in a broad sense, are suggested by the results of this study. Child labor incidence responds to economic performance, so macroeconomic policies to support growth and job generation contribute to reducing the incidence of child labor. The results also indicate that with incomes above the poverty threshold, less children, more education and better access to basic social services, parents are less likely to send their children to work. So family planning, stable jobs and adequate incomes, and access to basic services, especially education and health, are all critical elements of a strategy to make child labor, hazardous or otherwise, redundant. The importance of increasing educational opportunities cannot be overemphasized. With good quality schools available, parents have an alternative for their children. If complemented by measures that will compensate for the income lost in withdrawing children from work, this has at least two beneficial results. In the short-term, special programs to remove children from hazardous work have a better chance of succeeding. Monitoring progress is facilitated as attendance at school is much more easily monitored than attendance at work. Schools can also be instrumental in informing children about their rights and, if curricula are well-designed, should be able to impart skills that children will immediately find useful upon entering the labor market. In the long-term, education equips individuals with basic skills, increases their employability, and


improves the quality of their decisions with respect to family size and human capital investments in children. This study has shown that parents who have completed high school are less likely to send their children to work. Education can help break the vicious cycle of child labor and poverty. Assisting poor families to realize their intended family size can also go a long way to reduce the necessity for child labor. Population concerns and investments in human capital are intimately related as decisions about family size bear heavily on decisions to invest in the human capital of every family member. With too many children, savings are limited, and more or better investments in schooling, health and nutrition are precluded. The consequences of the failure to realize intended family size – of which child work is but one – are more serious for poor families, but it is precisely these poor families that are prone to this failure on account of limited access to family planning information and services. A vigorous program to fill in the knowledge gaps that produce unmet contraceptive needs and unwanted births can help reduce the dependency burden among the poor and stem the growth of child labor. Studies indicate that unmet need results from the high costs (including non-pecuniary costs) of adopting contraceptives or using the service delivery system (State of the Philippine Population Report 2000). The fact that child labor is a means of coping with poverty implies that action to reduce or eliminate it can not go very far unless accompanied by measures that will give poor families a sense of income security. Current policies to reduce poverty through a combination of growthinducing policies and social safety nets to protect the most vulnerable sectors are examples. But, like educational investments and family planning services, the effects of poverty reduction on child labor can be realized only slowly and incrementally over time barring reversals caused by unanticipated shocks to the economy. With 5.2 million families currently below the poverty line (NSO, 2000), reducing poverty in the Philippines is a long-term goal. For this reason, it is rather optimistic to expect dramatic reductions in the number of working children in the near future. Nevertheless, regular government programs on education, health, social welfare and poverty alleviation can have a more direct impact on child labor if these are specifically targeted to families with young children. These programs, which are part of the regular activities of government departments (e.g. DECS, DOH, DSWD, NAPC), should be able to benefit children working in both hazardous and non-hazardous jobs. However, there may be scope within these regular government programs for developing specific modes of extending assistance to children working in non-hazardous jobs. That is because children in this job category may be just as deprived, albeit not likely to be covered by the more prominent and specially-funded programs for children in hazardous work. Special programs for children working in hazardous situations comprise the second approach to curbing child labor. Such programs are necessary in view of the greater threat that hazardous work poses to children’s lives. From a practical standpoint, it is also much easier to mobilize public support for these types of programs because the targets can be defined well enough, are often specific, and are likely to be geographically circumscribed. The limited focus of such programs also makes their goals look more achievable within a reasonable time period. Moreover, there is by now an international consensus (ILO Convention 82) on the elimination of what are considered to be the worst forms of child labor. In the Philippines, action on the elimination of unacceptable forms of child labor has been vigorous and organized. There is a National Child Labor Committee that oversees the child labor program at the national level supported by a technical working group and committees at the


regional and local levels to implement the interventions. Since 1994, the ILO-IPEC has been supporting partner-organizations for undertaking measures to prevent child labor, withdraw children from hazardous work and provide alternatives, and improve the children’s working conditions as a transitional measure towards the elimination of child labor (Illo and BagadionEngracia, 1998). The priority areas for Philippine-ILO action have been children in mining and quarrying, prostitution, sugarcane plantations, pyrotechnics production, deep-sea diving, homebased industries (especially those under subcontracting arrangements), vegetable farms, and children victims of trafficking (see also Abrera-Mangahas, 1999). The Philippines’ Time Bound Program, which is now being finalized, includes the first five of these, plus children in domestic service. A more complete description and assessment of the Philippine experience in the campaign for the elimination of child labor is provided in Illo and Bagadion-Engracia (1998) and Abrera-Mangahas (1999). The rest of this final section zeroes in on a number of important lessons from the experience that may be serve as a useful guide in designing future programs. It has been said that a particular strength of the Philippines-IPEC program has been its ability to build partnerships and continually expand the network of supporters. The National Child Labor Program counts among its supporters: employers’ and business organizations, trade unions and other labor organizations, and various civic groups and non-governmental organizations. As the experience shows, the forging of partnerships has been instrumental in the success of awareness raising activities and in instilling among the various supporters a sense of ownership of the programs. At the local level, partnerships with the communities and parents facilitate communication and make interventions more effective. The challenge for the future is how to raise the level of the local partnerships to the point where the special programs become integrated into the development programs of local government units (LGUs). Success stories here are hard to come by. This may be due to the inability of program implementers to gain the support of LGU officials early in the program, a problem that is typical with nationally inspired programs being introduced to local governments under a decentralized or devolved regime. As often happens, when an LGU executive feels that he has been by-passed, support for the program becomes lukewarm. This brings up the importance of bringing in the LGUs during the early stages of program preparation, especially if eliminating child labor in the locality is expected to have an adverse impact on the local economy. Integrating special anti-child-labor programs into the regular programs of LGUs is important for sustainability because external funding for special programs does not last forever, while child labor may yet take some time to solve. Eliminating child labor is all about weakening the incentives to resort to child labor on both the supply and demand sides of the market. Another key lesson, therefore, is that special programs on child labor have a better chance of gaining support and succeeding if alternatives to replace the income lost from eliminating child labor are presented. This implies that activities under the special programs must incorporate economic incentives for families and children not to resort to child labor. Examples are income transfers to poor households, jobs for adult family members, and possibly the encouragement of school attendance through subsidies (e.g. food) and stipends. That the provision of these economic incentives entails additional costs that are beyond the financial capability of special programs underscores the critical importance of coordinating special programs with regular government programs, national and local, and building effective


partnerships. For example, can parents who withdraw their children from work in the mines or in deep-sea fishing obtain a job under the one-million-jobs program now being implemented in the agriculture sector? What tie-ups are possible between programs to prevent child labor in various hazardous situations and the livelihood assistance programs under the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan (KALAHI) of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)? At the same time, trade unions and labor organizations can do their share to eliminate hazardous child labor through their advocacy in favor of the institution of safety nets and other measures to promote income security for workers. By lobbying government or engaging their employers in these bread-and-butter issues, they are not only advancing their interests but are also contributing towards the elimination of child labor. For their part, employers may be convinced to reduce their demand for hazardous and other worst forms of child labor if they can be shown safer and better alternatives, or if improvements in working conditions can be introduced. On this point, program implementers need to understand why employers resort to hazardous forms of child labor. A final point concerns the importance of monitoring progress in the effort to eliminate child labor. For this to be possible, reasonably reliable estimates of hazardous and other worst forms of child labor are needed. The NSO national survey is a valuable resource, but its limitations for measuring hazardous child labor and other worst forms must be recognized. Clearly, this must be complemented by more focused studies in jobs and industries where child labor incidence tends to be high. The reliability of a monitoring system is premised on a common understanding of what is being monitored. The determination of what constitutes hazardous work may not be so easy to the monitor at the village level or the law enforcer, however. For example, when is child domestic work hazardous or exploitative and when is it not? Capability building efforts among partnerorganizations and program implementers must include familiarization with the defining features or elements of child labor (hazardous work) that differentiate it from child work (non-hazardous). A monitoring system is also important for acquiring advanced information regarding the likely trend in child labor incidence so that the response time for program interventions can be reduced. With a monitoring system in place, the behavior of child labor incidence over a period of time (say, a year) can be tracked, the factors associated with a rise or fall recorded, and then the information used to plan future action even as it is continually enriched. Child labor programs in the Philippines need to seriously consider developing and instituting an early warning system for quick and informed response. For example, past trends indicate that child labor incidence tends to increase during periods of economic decline. With this knowledge, managers of child labor programs should by now be planning how to intervene in the event of a surge in child labor once the predicted el niño phenomenon takes effect. The success (or failure) of the measures taken can then be subsequently assessed in terms of whether child labor incidence was contained within a certain level, say that associated with a non-crisis period. In sum, child labor is a complex phenomenon. Concern about eliminating child labor should be tempered by an understanding of its nuances and what is feasible to do in light of the social realities and constraints faced by families.