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  • FACT: 1 in 12 children (180 million young people under 18) are involved in the worst forms of child labor.(1)

  • FACT: 60% of child laborers work in agriculture.(2)

  • FACT: Poverty is a driving factor contributing to child labor.(3)

  • FACT: Approximately 40% of all child laborers are between the ages 7-10 years.(4)


  • The word alone evokes images toothless grins and the sounds of spontaneous giggles. Countless mothers and fathers will unhesitatingly state that their favorite sound is that of their children’s laughter. Conversely, for many parents, there is no pain greater than seeing our children suffer. We wish that the cuts and “boo boos” we can easily kiss away, could be the worst that life would throw at our babies.

  • We don’t want to think about the layers of grime covering young children for whom each day is consumed by the grueling and arduous tasks of working in stone quarries, mines, or fields, where the risks can literally be life threatening. The juxtaposition of these two versions of childhood is truly jarring.

  • Please watch this short video on the right which shares about the issue of child labor worldwide. (5)


Millions of children across the globe are involved in labor which inhibits their educational opportunities as well as threatens their health and safety and ultimately deprives them of their youth. Approximately 215 million children around the world work, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency responsible for overseeing international standards of labor.(6)


Differentiation between acceptable forms of work and potentially harmful labor exists; however, it is estimated that greater than half the number of children working are doing so under hazardous conditions.

Top Ten Hazardous Work Environments for Children

  1. Mining, Quarries & Underground

  2. Maritime

  3. Dangerous Machinery

  4. Explosives

  5. Carrying heavy weights & loads

  6. Construction & Demolition

  7. Noxious fumes & Radioactive substances

  8. Lead & Zinc exposure

  9. Transportation & Vehicle operation

  10. Entertainment, alchohol production, and sale


Shiv, was tricked into accompanying a stranger with candy at the tender age of seven, Shiv was forced to work in a carpet factory for five years. Working 16 hours a day in the same room in which he slept and ate, he was not permitted to leave the facility even to go outside for fresh air, let alone to attend school. Furthermore, Shiv was subjected to verbal and physical abuse and malnourishment and was denied proper medical care and attention despite frequent illness and injury to his fingers due to the weaving. In fact, the “treatment” he received involved filling the cuts with match stick chemicals and cauterizing them. Although he was eventually rescued and given the opportunity to receive an education and live a far healthier life in which he would become an activist and make a difference for others, the five years he spent in that carpet factory cannot be erased.(7)

Risk Factors

  • A variety of factors contribute to the existence of child labor. Cultural norms, lack of educational opportunities, poverty, and family illness can make a child vulnerable to becoming ensnared in the workforce. Employers often seek to recruit children, as they are easily manipulated and exploited.

  • Important to note is the connectivity between poverty and child labor. Children are often forced into labor due to poverty within their own families. In some instances they are forced to work as many as 18 hours a day, eliminating the opportunity to attend school or receive any outside education. Such limited and non-existent educational opportunities leave these children little hope of breaking free from the enslaving cycle of poverty.(8)

The harsh reality in North Bengal, India. 


This short video shares the harsh reality of many young children in North Bengal, India. Some work for as little as $.35/day.(9)

Many child laborers are deprived of any type of formal education, experience limited mental and physical development and receive minimal training in basic interpersonal skills. This lack of development leaves them ill equipped to discern the dangers of their working conditions and unaware of the long term effects of such hazardous labor.​

consequences for

child laborers (10)

  • Physical injuries and mutilations are caused by badly maintained machinery on farms and in factories, machete accidents in plantations, and any number of hazards encountered in industries such as mining, ceramics and fireworks manufacture

  • Pesticide poisoning is one of the biggest killers of child laborers. In Sri Lanka, pesticides kill more children than diphtheria, malaria, polio and tetanus combined. The global death toll each year from pesticides is supposed to be approximately 40,000

  • Growth deficiency is prevalent among working children, who tend to be shorter and lighter than other children; these deficiencies also impact their adult life

  • Long-term health problems, such as respiratory disease, asbestosis and a variety of cancers, are common in countries where children are forced to work with dangerous chemicals

  • HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are rife among the one million children forced into prostitution every year; pregnancy, drug addiction and mental illness are also common among child prostitutes

  • Exhaustion and malnutrition are a result of underdeveloped children performing heavy manual labour, working long hours in unbearable conditions and not earning enough to feed themselves adequately


Like her mother, Alice has never been to formal school beyond nursery school. Her mother is illiterate and works at home. Her father, a mason, completed secondary school. After nursery school, Alice was free at home. Her friends went to the garbage dump to earn money. She needed money and wanted to be with her friends, so at age 8 she started working at the dump too. She collected bottles, shoes, and plastic bags, and sold them directly to people who came to the dump. She did not report to a boss. She worked 8 hours a day, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and from 1 – 5 p.m., six days a week. She took an hour break for lunch. The dump was near her house, so Alice went back and forth on foot. She made about 1,000 CFA franc ($1.80 US dollars) a day for the goods she sold. Alice worked for three years, from age 8 to age 13. She did not like working in the dump, but she needed the money for food (especially lunch) and clothes. She had one meal a day.(11)


Ashraf started working as a “street beggar” and performer when he was only six-years- old. He remembers people asking him why he begged instead of worked. He said that he did not like begging, but it was all he had been taught by his parents.(12)

concept of eradicating child labor


This video from the International Labor Organization talks about the concept of eradicating child labor through social dialogue.(15)


Child labor poses a massive threat to youth around the world. In countries across the globe, children are being robbed of their youth and exploited for financial gain. Continued intervention and reform are imperative in reducing and ultimately eliminating this crime which threatens the health, safety, education, and livelihood of the youth of the world.

Prevalence and Scope

Child labor is a pervasive problem worldwide. Maplecroft, a global risks advisory firm, has developed The Child Labour Index and Map, which identifies 68 countries of particular concern for placing children in these high-risk situations. Among these nations, the top ten have been identified as follows:(13)

1. Bangladesh

2. Chad

3. Democratic Republic

    of Congo

4. Ethiopia

5. India

6. Liberia

7. Myanmar

8. Nigeria

9. Pakistan

10. Somalia

The World Health Organization states that every year around the world, more than 25,000 child workers under the age of 17 die as a result of occupational injuries. “Hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farmworkers in the U.S. They often work 10 or more hours a day with sharp tools, heavy machinery, and dangerous pesticides, and die at 4 times the rate of other working youth”, says the Human Rights Watch Organization. CHILD LABOR: GROWING UP TOO QUICKLY, this graph indicates the percentages and locations of 5-14 year old child workers worldwide.(14)

Child Labor Footnotes

Justice Society would like to thank Marie Birnbaum for her work as a contributing writer for this article.

1. “Child Labour Resource Guild: Executive Summary.”  UNICEF, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.

2. “Facts on Child Labor 2010.”International Labor Organization. n.d. Web. 23 Jan 2013.–en/index.htm 

3. Causes in Child Labor.” n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.

4. Web. 23 Jan 2013.

5. “ILO Reports on Child Labour Globally.” ILOtv n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

6.”Child Labour Resource Guild: Executive Summary.”  UNICEF, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.

7. Know Child Labor. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.

8.”Child Labor Quick Facts.” n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

9. “Petals on Stone: Extreme Child Labor in India.” 30 Nov. 2008 You Tube.Online Video Clip. 29 Jan. 2013.

10.Causes in Child Labor.” n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.

11. Know Child Labor. Web. 23 Jan.

12.Know Child Labor. Web. 23 Jan.

13. “Conflict and economic downturn cause global increase in reported child labour violations – 40% of countries now rated ‘extreme risk’ by Maplecroft.” News. 01 May 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.

14.   “Child Labor: growing up too quickly.” WHO.Int  World Health Organization n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013

15.  “Eradicate child labour with social dialogue.” International Labor Organization. n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.–de/index.htm

16.  “Ending  Child Labor.”  The Child Education Project. n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.

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