South_Sudan_Referendum2_Commons_USGPublicDomainAdults are spending more time away from their children and other family members, and accelerating urbanization trends mean that many are also living far from the extended family members who formerly helped with caregiving. As a result, working conditions have a dramatic impact on family health – they shape the extent to which working adults can provide necessary care to their children and other family members.

Additionally, many working adults are not able to earn enough to lift their families out of poverty. Being raised in poverty has detrimental effects on children’s life chances, from their health to their education to their likelihood of performing child labor or being married as children. Families need a source of income support to ensure that children’s basic needs can be met.

The WORLD Policy Analysis Center provides globally comparative data on a wide range of areas relevant to family care and income support.

Topics covered include:

Working Conditions Affecting Care

 Wages and Working Hours

 Income Support for Families

The importance of policies that help workers balance work and family obligations and reduce poverty at the family level is internationally recognized in a number of conventions.

Access to Care

In light of considerable evidence indicating the importance of mothers’ and fathers’ roles in meeting the developmental, health, and educational needs of infants and children, our data provides a much needed look at labor policies that affect parents. We investigated policies that determine the extent to which parents are available to their children to support them in their infancy, particularly via maternity/paternity leave and breastfeeding policies, as well as to provide for the health and educational needs of their children via parental leave provisions, wage replacement for leave, and wage premiums for night work. Such policies are internationally recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989), which states in Article 3 that “(ii) State parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures,” and in Article 18 that “(ii) For the purposes of guaranteeing and promoting the rights set forth in the present Convention, State Parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and shall ensure the development of institutions, facilities, and services for the care of children.”

Article 3 of the Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention (WFRC) (1981) also states that “With a view to creating effective equality of opportunity and treatment for men and women workers, each Member shall make it an aim of national policy to enable persons with family responsibilities who are engaged or wish to engage in employment to exercise their right to do so without being subject to discrimination and, to the extent possible, without conflict between their employment and family responsibilities.” Finally, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979) provides in Article 11 “1. (e) The right to social security, particularly in cases of retirement, unemployment, sickness, invalidity and old age and other incapacity to work, as well as the right to paid leave,” and that State Parties shall take appropriate measures “2. (a) To prohibit, subject to the imposition of sanctions, dismissal on the ground of pregnancy or of maternity leave and discrimination in dismissals on the basis of marital status; (b) To introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances; and (c) To encourage provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the establishment and development of a network of child-care facilities,” among other protections.

Wages and Working Hours

Ensuring adequate parental income through minimum wage legislation and replacing income during periods of unemployment are two types of policies that can increase and protect the incomes of poor families. Further, a wealth of evidence shows that family benefits, in the form of direct financial benefits, reduce poverty levels for low-income children and families. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966) recognizes the right of everyone to “just and favourable conditions of work” in Article 7, including (a) Remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with: (i) Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guarantee conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work; (ii) A decent living for themselves and their families in accordance with the provisions of the present Covenant.” Article 11 also recognizes the “right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family.”

Income Support for Families

In low- and middle-income countries, nearly half of the population lives on less than $2.00 per day. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Efforts to reduce poverty are essential to the achievement of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which asserts in Article 27 that children have the right to “a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.” Millions of children lack access to nutrition, clean water, shelter and decent healthcare. Children living in poverty are less likely to attend school and more likely to work to support their family. Poor children are more likely to die young than their richer counterparts, and those that survive have worse health outcomes throughout the life course.