Child labour is work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity.
What is child labour?
Child labour 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 labour?
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 labour 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 parents’ 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 labour
What does child labour look like?
Globally, 152 million children aged 5 to 17 are in child labour. 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 labour are working in agriculture
- Child labour isn’t limited to poor countries. Half of affected children live in middle income countries
- Half of children in child labour are too young to work
- The problem is more prevalent in countries experiencing conflict and disaster
- A third of children in child labour are completely outside the education system, and those that do attend perform poorly
The overall numbers are trending in the right direction. Child labour has decreased by 38% since 2000, from 246 to 152 million children. International awareness is growing, driven by globalized markets, economic transparency, and consumer behaviour.
Our goal – the elimination of child labour – is within reach.