Most people are very poor and earn their living through agriculture on small family farms. Most of the work is undertaken by hand, and women do most of the labor, helped by children. There are no official unemployment figures for Benin, but unemployment figures have little significance in a low-income African economy. There are very few with no work at all. There is no unemployment benefit, and those who do not work rely on support from charities or their families. Many people would like a modern sector job, but eke out an existence on family farms or in casual informal sector activities (such as hawking , portering, scavenging) in the urban areas. There was a minimum professional salary of US$38 per month in 1997. The biannual civil servant salary increase stopped in 1998, but trade unions are demanding its reintroduction. The United Nations Development Program estimates that 55 percent of urban dwellers earned less than US$160 per year in 1992.
The constitution of the Republic of Benin guarantees the basic rights and freedoms of citizens. Forced labor is illegal, but human rights are not enforced in a consistent manner. Children often work to supplement household income, resulting in lower school attendance figures. In 1998 it was estimated that 29 percent of children aged 10-14 had to work to supplement family income.