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Saharan AfricaChild labor is a major concern for the future of developing nations. This represents a practice that hinders the development of the poorest nations on the planet while simultaneously hampering the development of their future generations. This practice has a large impact on the youngest among us; however, we do have reason to be optimistic that, together, we can end the exploitation of children.

Top 10 Facts About Child Labor

  1. Currently, reports indicate that approximately 168 million children are exploited by child labor around the world. Of those 168 million, approximately 100 million are boys and 68 million are girls.
  2. Poverty and lack of educational opportunities are the main factors that often force children to work because children must work in order to help their families financially. Furthermore, if children have limited access to education, many are forced to turn to work in order to provide for themselves and their families.
  3. Most children work in the agricultural sectors, growing cash-crops like coffee or cocoa that are then shipped to richer, more developed countries.
  4. Emergencies or crises often force children to work. Take Syria for example; many of the families that have fled the country have young children. In many cases, these children have to work in order to help the family overcome the hardships associated with fleeing their war-torn country.
  5. The highest incidence of child labor takes place in sub-Saharan Africa. This is due, in part, to the high levels of poverty in the area and the need for unskilled labor to work on the many cash-crop producing farms.
  6. Due to an increase in awareness and work of several organizations, child labor is on the decline. Between 2000 and 2012, the total number of children being exploited for their labor has declined from 245 million to 168 million children.
  7. Consumers can help end child labor by being well-informed and making sure that companies they buy from do not engage in child labor practices. While this might require more research from the consumer, it is a critical step in ensuring that child labor ends.
  8. Access to education opportunities can end child labor. If parents can send their children to a safe, quality school, then they may encourage them to stay in school and continue their education instead of immediately trying to work.
  9. U.N. member states adopted 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development in 2015. These Goals included ending all forms of slavery, child labor and exploitation by 2025.
  10. Individuals can make a difference in helping to end child labor by contacting their representatives and senators in Congress or other government officials and encouraging them to support legislation and initiatives that help end global poverty. In doing so, those individuals become advocates for children’s rights and help eliminate some of the conditions and causes of child labor. People can also get involved through groups like The International Labor Organization (ILO), which works with governments to set labor standards and prevent forced and child labor.

Now more than ever, there is a reason to be optimistic about ending the exploitation of children for labor. As the facts show, child labor is decreasing and many global programs are working to end it once and for all. Hopefully, these top 10 facts about child labor will encourage you to act. As consumers, we can demand that businesses do not exploit the labor of children. As concerned citizens and voters, we can demand that our leaders work to address this problem and end it forever.

– Raymond Terry

Photo: Flickr


Child labor, as defined by the International Labor Organization (ILO), is “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.” The persistence of child labor is one of the biggest obstacles to human rights globally. Child Labor perpetuates poverty by depriving children of education and leaving them without the skills needed to secure the future of themselves and their communities. This article sheds light on key child labor facts and the countries where child labor prevails.

Top 10 Child Labor Facts

  1. Much of Indonesia’s tobacco is produced by thousands of children as young as eight. Tobacco cultivation is extremely labor intensive and children are often subjected to serious health risks including nicotine poisoning.
  2. According to the ILO, 168 million children worldwide are engaged in child labor as of 2013.
  3. Of these 168 million children, 85 million are engaged in what the ILO deems “hazardous work.”
  4. According to a study conducted by the ILO in 2004, the benefits of eradicating child labor would “outweigh costs by nearly six to one.”
  5. The sub-Saharan African region has the second highest number of child laborers in the world; about 59 million in 2012. According to the Pew Research Center, 21.4 percent of children aged five to 17 are involved in child labor while 10.4 percent are engaged in hazardous work.
  6. Agriculture accounts for 60 percent of child labor according to the ILO.
  7. Only one out of five children involved in child labor is paid for their work.
  8. The majority of children in child labor perform unpaid family work.
  9. The 10 countries that strategic consulting firm Maplecroft listed as the worst countries for child labor in 2012 were: Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea, Myanmar, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi and Zimbabwe.
  10. About 60 percent of children in Ethiopia are engaged in some form of child labor. Many of these children work in the mining industry; an industry that poses some of the biggest dangers for child laborers.

Many parents in impoverished countries push their children into work out of necessity, unable to sustain their families on their own incomes.

One of the best ways to combat child labor is to provide fair wages and safe working conditions for parents so that they can provide for their families without being forced to depend on their children. To fight against child labor is the fight against global poverty.

– Matt Berg

 

Sources: Huffington Post, allAfrica, SMH, Rescue, Human Rights Watch, The Guardian, ILO 2, U.S. Department of Labor, Pew Research Center
Photo: Geneva Mission

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child labor facts
The existence of child labor is a prominent human rights issue in today’s world. The United Nations defines child labor as any work completed by children who have not yet reached the minimum legal age required for either a specific kind of work or any work that is generally viewed as unacceptable for children. Unacceptable work usually involves potential harm, dangerous conditions or physical strain unsuitable for underage youth.

To combat this issue, it is important to understand pertinent child labor facts. This knowledge will allow people to fully realize how many young workers never have the chance to be children:

  • Child labor is incredibly common and internationally practiced, and has affected billions of young lives. During the Industrial Revolution, employers sought out child workers because they could pay them lower wages, use their size as an advantage and benefit from their obedience. For years children made up a large majority of the labor force, and it wasn’t until the Great Depression that labor reforms began.
  • Even though child labor is prohibited in the United States, many other countries still exploit child workers. According to Free the Children, there are approximately 218 million child workers worldwide.
  • Many child workers are forced to work under hazardous conditions. Approximately 115 million children out of the aforementioned 218 million work in unsafe environments according to the International Labor Organization. This type of work is considered to be among the worst forms of child labor, especially since children are at greater risk of injuries and accidents.
  • Many children work out of necessity. In developing countries, it is common practice for kids to find work so that they can help provide for the family. In some cases, children are exposed to slavery, illegal activities and even armed conflict.
  • These children do not receive proper care or education. If there are no child labor laws in place, children work most of the day without receiving necessary nutrients or food and according to Free the Children, approximately 57 million children do not attend school. These limitations hinder children from reaching their full educational potential or advancing in the workforce.

Even though there has been a significant decline in the number of child workers, this is only a moderate decrease compared to the total number of children who are forced to work. As demonstrated by the facts above, this issue is still very present today, and perpetuates the cycle of poverty in developing countries.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: The United Nations, Free the Children, The International Labor Organization, The History Channel
Photo: Flickr

child labor facts
The act of using children for free or cheap labor has been around for centuries, and while it is not often brought up in conversation, this dirty little secret lives on in numerous countries, including the U.S.

Here are eight Child Labor facts from all over the world:

1.  Child labor is not just something that happens overseas
China, Asia and Africa are not the only nations that use children for cheap labor. Tobacco fields in the U.S. use young children to pick the plants. These children are exposed to dangerous pesticides and nicotine on a regular basis and sometimes get so sick they can hardly stand.

2. Child labor in tobacco fields is legal in the U.S.
The U.S. allows children as young as 11 to legally work in tobacco fields where they spray harmful chemicals so close to them they can hardly breathe. To put this in perspective: a child working in tobacco fields is illegal in countries like Russia and Kazakhstan, but is legal in the United States.

3.  Pakistan participates in selling children as slaves
Children in Pakistan can be sold by their parents or, more often, are abducted and sold into slavery to companies for profit. Companies that have utilized this backwards practice include Nike and the Punjub province, which is the largest seller of stitched rugs, musical instruments and sports equipment.

4.   Afghanistan gives away young girls to pay off debts
Another fact about child labor comes from Afghanistan where children make up roughly half of the population. Children often work in the textile industry, the poppy fields, cement and food processing. Parents may also sell their underage daughters into slavery in order to pay off a debt.

5.  Zimbabwe’s Learn as You Earn Program
The Learn as You Earn Program in Zimbabwe may not sound too bad at first glance, but it is another ploy to bring in children for cheap labor. The program brings children into the forestry and agricultural sectors so they can “learn” about those markets. Children often choose this in place of a formal education.

6.  Child Soldiers
Children who are displaced in war-torn countries like Afghanistan or Sudan are often put to work as child soldiers. These children are given guns and minor training and are told to defend their country. Some children may even be used as suicide bombers.

7.  Underage girls and sexual slavery
Young girls from all over the world who are either displaced by war, abducted while visiting foreign countries or even sold by their parents for money often find themselves in forced sexual slavery.  This problem is growing in Sudan, Somalia, Thailand, Japan, India and the United States.

8.  North Korea outlaws underage labor, continues to hire children
The government of North Korea officially outlawed child labor, but children still make up a large percentage of the people who work in factories. They also have labor camps where they send children to work in order to be re-educated for any type of political offenses.

These facts about child labor around the world can seem gruesome and a maybe a little far-fetched, but the point is that there are children who live these nightmares every single day.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: Business Insider, CNN, The Nation
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor
Children have always been a source of cheap labor, and the United States is no exception. This article recounts the history of child labor in the United States, and the steps taken to fight against its practice.

 

A History of Child Labor in the United States

 

In the colonial period, child labor was commonplace. Children were expected to assist their parents and work on the family farm. Young boys (ages 10-14) later became apprentices in different trades.

The Industrial Revolution, however, marked a new level of intensity for young workers. Children spent all day in factories with poor and dangerous conditions. Their small size allowed them to climb in and out of old factory machines. In addition to factory work, some employers used children in mines. These young workers were preferred because they were easy to control and direct. Salaries for children were also much less than those for adult workers. The large influx of immigrants into the United States in the mid 1800s led to an additional increase in child labor.

The most common reason for child labor in the United States during the Industrial Revolution was to support the family. Instead of going to school, children went to work in factories. During the nineteenth century some attempts were made to reform child labor laws and improve general working conditions. Education reformers promoted the idea that getting a primary school education was necessary to achieve self-advancement and a stronger nation. As a result, a number of states began to implement minimum wage and school attendance laws. However, they contained many loopholes and were rarely enforced.

American reformers have been actively working to fight child labor in the United States since the early 1900s. In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee was established. Along with smaller state child labor committees, the national chapter adopted a policy of “mass political action”–research reports, investigations by experts, dramatic photographs depicting oppressed children in factories, active lobbying, pamphlets, mass mailings and leaflets. However, progress was slow and often frustrating.

Committees identified state legislatures as the best vehicle to achieve reform. During the Progressive Era, many state laws regulating child labor were passed. Due to resistance from the southern states, federal child labor bills were later passed through Congress in 1916 and 1918. However, the Supreme Court ruled that they were unconstitutional.

Reformers decided to lobby for an amendment that would permit the government to pass a federal child labor law. The proposed amendment was passed through Congress in 1924, but several states failed to ratify it because of the conservative political environment at the time. Once the Great Depression hit America in the 1930s, child labor nearly disappeared as all the jobs went to adults instead of children. The National Industrial Recovery Act further placed regulations on child labor, and the Fair Labor Standards Act set federal minimum wage and maximum work hours. Children under 16 were not permitted to work in the manufacturing and mining sectors.

Due to the advancements in factory technology and the increase in required years of schooling, the issue of child labor has become largely insignificant. Violations of child labor laws still occur today, but the United States has definitely come a long way – “one of the more remarkable changes in the social and economic life of the nation over the last two centuries.”

Given its own struggle with child labor, the United States has taken action to end it abroad through initiatives like the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT) – a division of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB). The OCFT was founded in 1993 as part of a congressional request to investigate and report on child labor practices around the world. Using research conducted by the OCFT, ILAB maintains a list of international goods produced by child labor or forced labor: fireworks from China, corn from Bolivia, bricks from Burma, carpets from India, garments from Argentina and more. In addition to publishing reports like “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor,” the OCFT assists with the development of labor legislation and supports relevant projects; so far, more than 270 projects have been funded, benefiting children in over 90 countries. Through the OCFT, the United States hopes to collaborate with other nations in order to strengthen the enforcement of child labor laws and raise global awareness of the issue.

– Kristy Liao

Sources: ContinueToLearn, Department of Labor 1, Department of Labor 2, History
Photo: Flickr