Most children in low- and middle-income countries do some work as part of their daily lives, often from a young age. Such work can be benign and beneficial, for example if children are working outside school hours on light domestic chores, or accompanying mothers, fathers or older siblings on family farms or businesses. Other work, however, can be harmful – often in difficult conditions with the risk of injury and exhaustion, involving long hours that cause children to miss school and underachieve. Such work has frequently been categorised as ‘child labour’. There are numerous definitions of child labour, based variously on hours worked, remuneration, age and types of work, or the specific industries or hazards involved. Young Lives has a different emphasis. Instead of ‘child labour’, the study uses the term ‘children’s work’ and sees work as part of children’s everyday lives within a continuum of regular activities. While highlighting potential risks, it also indicates benefits. Children may be earning essential income for the family, or may be carrying out activities that free up adults to do other work. In this way, children can actively participate in the work of households while learning vital and relevant skills that may pay off in later life. This report therefore considers children within their working households and communities, focusing also on the fundamental relationship between work and school education.
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Young Lives is a unique longitudinal study of poverty and inequality documenting the lives of 12,000 children in Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), Peru and Vietnam since 2001. Through two decades of mixed methods research, Young Lives has generated unrivaled data and a rich body of knowledge on the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in low – and middle income- countries.