Don’t poor families need their children’s income in order to survive?

February 25, 2014 | FAQs | No Comments

This is the classic “Poverty Argument”. The answer to this question depends on how you frame it. If the question is, ”Is it not true that if a family is extremely poor and is in desperate straits then the parents would need to send their child to work?” Then the answer of course is ‘YES’.

However, if the question is “Are all families now sending their children to work so poor that they need their child’s income in order to survive?” the answer is an emphatic ‘NO’. The tragedy of the child labour situation in this country is that it is simply assumed that every labourer is working because it is an issue of survival for the family. This is the most insidious aspect of the Poverty Argument. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Poverty Argument for all its appearance of being logical is completely flawed. Interestingly enough it is not even easy to prove. If it were true then in every village the poorest should drop out from school first and enter the labour market. However, rural areas are full of examples of children belonging to very poor families who are in school while their relatively better off counterparts are working.

A large number of factors that have nothing to do with the economics of the situation, such as tradition, ignorance of parents on account of illiteracy, lack of access to alternatives, insensitive administration and so on govern the decision of the family to send a child to work or to school. The Poverty Argument ignores all these aspects and views every thing as a purely economic decision.

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