Facts and Figures:
In 2008, there were approximately 215 million child labourers, aged 5-17, in the world. Among them, 115 million children were in hazardous work (a term which is often used as a proxy for the worst forms of child labour).
Asia and the Pacific still have the largest numbers (almost 78 million or 9.3% of child population), but Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour (59 million, over 21%).
There are 13 million (8.8%) of children in child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the Middle East and North Africa there are 9.2 million (8.4%).
Agriculture remains by far the most important sector where child labourers can be found (98 million, or 59%), but the problems are not negligible in services (54 million) and industry (12 million) – mostly in the informal economy.
Child labour among girls fell by 40% since 2000, compared to 25% for boys.
On average, one child in every seven can be classified as a child labourer.
What is it?
It is work that children should not be doing because they are too young to work, or – if they are old enough to work – because it is dangerous or otherwise unsuitable for them. (Defined by the ILO Conventions)
There are many forms of child labour worldwide. Children are engaged in agricultural labour, in mining, in manufacturing, in domestic service, types of construction, scavenging and begging on the streets. Others are trapped in forms of slavery in armed conflicts, forced labour and debt bondage (to pay off debts incurred by parents and grandparents) as well as in commercial sexual exploitation and illicit activities, such as drug trafficking and organized begging and in many other forms of labour. Many of these are “worst forms” of child labour as they are especially harmful, morally reprehensible, and they violate the child’s freedom and human rights
Child labour is a complex problem and numerous factors influence whether children work or not. Countries may be equally poor and yet have relatively high or relatively low levels of child labour.
Poverty emerges as the most compelling reason why children work. Poor households spend the bulk of their income on food and the income provided by working children is often critical to their survival.
Barriers to education: basic education is not free in all countries and is not always available for all children, especially in remote rural areas. In situations where education is not affordable or parents see no value in education, children are sent to work, rather than to school.
Culture and tradition: with few opportunities open to children with more education, parents are likely to share a cultural norm in which labour is seen as the most productive use of a child’s time. Children are often expected to follow in their parents’ footsteps and are frequently summoned to “help” other members of the family, often at a young age.
Market demand: employers may prefer to hire children because they are “cheaper” than their adult counterparts, can be distributed of easily if labour demands fluctuate and also form a passive, obedient work-force that will not seek to organize itself for protection and support.
The effects of income shocks on households: households that do not have the means to deal with income shocks, such as natural disasters, economic or agricultural crises or the impact of HIV, AIDS, may resort to child labour as a coping mechanism.
Inadequate/poor enforcement of legislation and policies to protect children: child labour persists when national laws and policies to protect children are lacking or are not effectively implemented.
Child labourers are at a high risk of illness, injury and even death due to a wide variety of machinery, biological, physical, chemical, ergonomic, welfare/hygiene and psychosocial hazards, as well as from long hours of work and poor living conditions.
Children often suffer psychological damage from working and