What is child labor?
Child labor is defined by international standards as work that is hazardous, demands too many hours, or is performed by children who are too young.
- It harms children mentally, physically, socially, and morally
- It interferes with their schooling, preventing them from attending or concentrating
- It may involve them being enslaved, separated from their families, and exposed to serious hazards and illnesses
What are the causes of child labor?
Children work because their survival depends on it because their parents don’t have access to decent work, because national education and social protection systems are weak, and because adults take advantage of their vulnerability. Child labor is sometimes the result of ingrained customs and traditions. Even well-intended practices can be harmful, such as:
- The view that work is good for children because it helps them build character and develop skills
- The tradition that children should follow their parent’s footsteps and learn their trade at an early age
- The importance of traditions that push poor families into debt which are paid off through child labor
What does child labor look like?
Globally, 152 million children aged 5 to 17 are in child labor. About half of them (72.5 million) perform hazardous work that places their health, safety, or moral development at risk.
- Seven in ten children in child labor are working in agriculture
- Child labor isn’t limited to poor countries. Half of the affected children live in middle-income countries
- Half of the children in child labor are too young to work
- The problem is more prevalent in countries experiencing conflict and disaster
- A third of children in child labor are completely outside the education system, and those that do attend perform poorly
The overall numbers are trending in the right direction. Child labor has decreased by 38% since 2000, from 246 to 152 million children. International awareness is growing, driven by globalized markets, economic transparency, and consumer behavior.
Our goal – the elimination of child labor – is within reach.