In most parts of the world, the percentage of the population living on less than $1 per day has declined over the last decade (Chen and Ravallion, 2001). However in sub-Saharan Africa it is rising. Given long-term trends in the incidence of poverty, one would expect to see declines in the incidence of child labor in countries in which the percentage living in poverty has declined, but increases in countries in which that percentage has increased. At the same time, changes in the structure and function of labor markets (see discussion below) as well as changes in the accessibility of credit and risk insurance can affect families’ ability to absorb temporary economic shocks due to a bad harvest, a business failure, or a job loss, with attendant implications for the timing of young people’s transitions to work.
Throughout the developing world, except possibly in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, family size is declining rapidly and the educational levels of parents are substantially higher than they were in previous generations. At the same time, the burdens of domestic work that depend to a large extent on the availability of electricity, cooking fuel, and water are likely to be declining as countries become more fully electrified, as public services become more widely accessible, and as a growing proportion of the population lives in cities in which services are much more accessible (National Research Council, 2003). These trends that are associated with positive demographic and economic changes might be expected to free young people up from domestic responsibilities as well as from the need to contribute to family income at a young age or while still a student, thus allowing time for longer and more effective learning in school.
At the same time, female household headship is rising throughout the developing world, and mothers are more likely to work outside the home than in the past (Bruce, Lloyd, and Leonard, 1995). Rising female headship means fewer adult earners in the household, possibly increasing the need for young people to contribute to household income. Lloyd and Blanc (1996) found in sub-Saharan Africa that children living in female-headed households actually had an educational advantage over children in male-headed households once income was controlled, because of the tendency of these households to be more child-oriented in the allocation of family resources. However, female-headed households are more likely to be poor; the net effect of rising female headship on the incidence of child labor should depend on trends in the relative incidence of poverty in these households. Increasing rates of female labor force participation also lead to a reduction in the number of adults in the household available to take up domestic responsibilities, with possible implications for children’s domestic work responsibilities. Unless the family is poor, the increased family income