Exploitive child labor is any work done by children that is hazardous, prevents them from getting an education, or is harmful to their health or to their physical, mental, or social development.
According to International Labor Organization Convention 182, “the worst forms of child labor” include:
Some 115 million children work in hazardous conditions (1) such as:
At least 2 million children are trafficked annually for child labor and sexual exploitation. (3)
Most child laborers are in the informal economic sector, where they are not protected by laws and regulations.
Child labor can be found in almost every country. It is estimated that there are at least:
The poorest children are extremely vulnerable. Children are less aware of their rights, and they accept repetitive and hazardous work willingly because they are more obedient and may not have other options.
Girls are also extremely vulnerable. In many cultures, girls are expected to provide financial support for their parents. Furthermore, parents are much more likely to educate boys than girls, leading to an increase in vulnerability.
Children engaged in the worst forms of child labor are denied schooling, which could help them earn a fair wage and lead them to a better way of life. Child laborers also face traumatic physical and mental abuse, dependence on drugs and other addictive substances, and a host of chronic diseases.
Child labor is a result of unjust systems and structures within a society. Some causes include:
Poverty — both in the home and at a national level — is the major cause of child labor. The International Labor Organization points to a strong correlation between income levels and child labor across countries, with the poorest countries registering the highest rates of child labor.
Child labor is not only a consequence of poverty. It is also a cause. If children are prevented from going to school due to child labor, they will remain illiterate. As adults they will likely not find well-paying jobs and their own children may be forced to work.Child labor can also drive down the wages and working conditions of adult workers, making it more likely that children will need to work to supplement their family’s income.
Access to education affects the incidence of child labor. In some areas, there is a shortage of adequate schools or teachers available to run classes, denying children an education and therefore encouraging them to seek work. Even where schooling is available, it may be costly.
Often times (but not always) products are cheap because they are produced with low-cost labor.
Some consumers are taking steps to create a fairer world. According to the Ethical Shopping Price Survey, 92 percent of consumers say they would pay a higher price for a product if it was marked with an “ethically certified” label. In response to this public sentiment, some companies offer products that are certified as “ethically responsible.”
Currently, more than 15,000 products from 60 countries are labeled as “Fair Trade Certified.”
World Vision’s experience working in countries around the world amongst marginalized people has revealed that children will continue to work unless there are sufficient economic alternatives for families.
Learn more about how we combat child labor practices in the countries where we work and some of our advocacy successes so far, in partnership with you.
The United States can use its influence and resources to continue to battle labor trafficking around the world.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 is the cornerstone of U.S. policies against modern-day slavery. The TVPA created the first comprehensive federal law to address human trafficking, with a focus on both the domestic and international dimensions of this heinous crime. It is what makes the United States the global leader in combating modern-day slavery.
Because the methods of human trafficking are constantly evolving, the law must evolve with them. That is why the TVPA must be renewed every few years. Each time the bill has been renewed, innovations and improvements were added to the original legislation.
The current version of TVPA expires on September 30, 2011. Tell Congress that they must introduce bipartisan legislation immediately so that there will be no gap in the fight to stop modern-day slavery. We need to let our elected leaders know we care about this issue. Call your representatives and senators today!
Advocate with us. Voice your support for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).
1. Press release: New ILO global report on child labour, International Labour Organization (2010).
2. State of the World’s Children 2006 [PDF]. UNICEF. (2006).
3. End of Child Labor Within Reach [PDF]. International Labour Organization. (2006).