Child labour affects the lives of roughly 152 million children worldwide

These children have been forced to give up school, sports, play and sometimes even their families and homes, often to work under dangerous, harmful and abusive conditions. Many children are engaged in paid and unpaid forms of work worldwide, but are only classified as child labourers when the work is considered hazardous or the child is underage.

The cycle of poverty is one of the largest contributing factors to child labour. Children are forced into dangerous, physically demanding jobs because many poor households use the bulk of their income on food, forcing parents to send or sell their children into the workforce in order to make ends meet. Other factors include culture and tradition, market demand, poor enforcement of legislation, and barriers to education.

Whilst engaged in child labour, children have little or no opportunity to attend school and get an education, causing the vicious cycle of poverty to continue.

Fast facts

  • Roughly 152 million children are engaged in child labour.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of child labourers.

  • In the world’s poorest countries, nearly a quarter of children are engaged in work that is harmful to their health.

  • Almost 60% of child labourers work in agriculture. Many also work in industry.

  • An estimated 73 million children work in conditions that are hazardous, damaging their health and well-being.

Steps to reducing child labour

Around the world, children living in poverty are vulnerable to exploitation and becoming child labourers. In addition, many products, foods and services we rely on involve an element of child labour, making elimination a difficult task. However, the international community has identified child labour as a major setback in children’s rights and national development, and made substantial progress to combat the situation. Whilst rates are declining, it is estimated that more than 100 million children will still be trapped in child labour by 2020. There is still much work to be done to continue to reduce the incidence of child labour.

According to the United Nations, effective elimination of child labour requires policies that address the cycle of poverty. One of the most important policy responses to child labour is education. With little to no access to education, children are often left with no choice but to begin working in exploitative, dangerous jobs.

The elimination of child labour is not a one-step solution, but with more awareness, access to education and policies in place, the world can continue to move in the right direction.

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