Child Labor

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Child Labor


Child Labor, designation formerly applied to the practice of employing young children in factories, now used to denote the employment of minors generally, especially in work that may interfere with their education or endanger their health. Throughout the ages and in all cultures children joined with their parents to work in the fields, in the marketplace, and around the home as soon as they were old enough to perform simple tasks. The use of child labor was not regarded a social problem until the introduction of the factory system.

History of Child Labor in Europe

During the latter part of the 18th century in Great Britain, owners of cotton mills collected orphans and children of poor parents throughout the country, obtaining their services merely for the cost of maintaining them. In some cases children five and six years of age were forced to work from 13 to 16 hours a day. Read about the History of Child Labor in Europe here.

Child Labor in the United States

In the early years of the 19th century children between the ages of 7 and 12 years made up one-third of the work force in U.S. factories. Read about Child Labor in the United States here.

International Problems

In the latter part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21th century, child labor remains a serious problem in many parts of the world. Studies carried out in 1979, the International Year of the Child, show that more than 50 million children below the age of 15 were working in various jobs often under hazardous conditions. Many of these children live in underdeveloped countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Their living conditions are crude and their chances for education minimal. The meager income they bring in, however, is necessary for the survival of their families. Frequently, these families lack the basic necessities of life—adequate food, decent clothing and shelter, and even water for bathing.

In some countries industrialization has created working conditions for children that rival the worst features of the 19th-century factories and mines. In India, for example, some 20,000 children work 16-hour days in match factories.

Child-labor problems are not, of course, limited to developing nations. They occur wherever poverty exists in Europe and the United States. A growing concern in recent years has been the increase in prostitution among youngsters in urban centers.

The most important efforts to eliminate child-labor abuses throughout the world come from the International Labor Organization (ILO), founded in 1919 and now a special agency of the United Nations. The organization has introduced several child-labor conventions among its members, including a minimum age of 16 years for admission to all work, a higher minimum age for specific types of employment, compulsory medical examinations, and regulation of night work. The ILO, however, does not have the power to enforce these conventions; it depends on voluntary compliance of member nations. [1]

Boy and Girl Child Laborers Distribution

Percentage of Boy and Girl Child Laborers by Regions:

  • All countries (excluding China) : 15 % Boys; 14 % Girls.
  • Least developed countries (ages 5-14) : 24 % Boys; 22 % Girls.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa : 28 % Boys; 26 % Girls.
  • Eastern and Southern Africa : 28 % Boys; 25 % Girls.
  • Western and Central Africa : 28 % Boys; 27 % Girls.
  • South Asia : 15 % Boys; 12 % Girls.
  • Middle East and North Africa : 10 % Boys; 8 % Girls.
  • Latin America and Caribbean Region : 9 % Boys; 7 % Girls.
  • East Asia and Pacific Region (excluding China) : 8 % Boys; 7 % Girls.
  • Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States : 6 % Boys; 4 % Girls.

Source: UNICEF Global Database, 2012

ILO Conventions and Declarations to Combat Child Labor

The International Labor Organization significant Conventions and Declarations to combat Child Labor are:

  • In 1920, the Minimum Age (Sea) Convention (No. 7) was adopted for fixing the minimum age for admission of children to employment at sea.
  • In 1921, the Minimum Age (Agriculture) Convention (No. 10) was adopted for fixing the minimum age for admission of children to employment in agriculture.
  • In 1932, the Minimum Age (Non-Industrial Employment) Convention (No. 33) for fixing the age for admission of children to nonindustrial employment.
  • In 1936, the Minimum Age (Sea) Convention (Revised) (No. 58) was adopted for revising the age limit for the admission of children to employment at sea.
  • In 1937, the Minimum Age (Industry) Convention (Revised) (No. 59) was adopted for revising the age limit for admission of children to industrial employment.
  • In 1937, the Minimum Age (Non-Industrial Employment) Convention (Revised) (No. 60) was adopted for revising the age limit for admission of children to nonindustrial employment.
  • In 1959, the Minimum Age (Fishermen) Convention (No. 112) was adopted for fixing the minimum age for admission to employment as fishermen.
  • In 1965, the Minimum Age (Underground Work) Convention (No. 123) was passed concerning the Minimum Age for admission to employment underground in mines.


See Also

  • Worker
  • Employee Benefits
  • Employ
  • Employment
  • White Collar Worker
  • Blue Collar Worker
  • Labor Right
  • Employee


See Also

  • Social Problem
  • Crime
  • Delinquency
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Delinquent
  • Social Issues
  • Crime Prevention



1. Source: “Child Labor”Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia

See Also

  • Employment Law
  • Labor law
  • Convention Concerning Forced Labor
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • U.S. Labor law and movement history
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child

Further Reading

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  • Allison, E. H., Béné, C., & Andrew, N. L. (2011). Poverty reduction as a means to enhance resilience in small-scale fisheries. In R. S. Pomeroy & N. L. Andrew (Eds.), Small-scale fisheries management—frameworks and approaches for the developing world (pp. 216-238). Oxfordshire, UK: CABI.
  • Anthony, D. (2011). The state of the world’s children 2011: Adolescence: An age of opportunity. New York, NY: UNICEF.
  • Aries, P. (1962). Centuries of childhood: A social history of family life. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Beegle, K. (2008). The consequences of child labor evidence from longitudinal data in rural Tanzania. Washington, DC: World Bank.
  • Beegle, K., Dehejia, R., & Gatti, R. (2006). Child labor and agricultural shocks. Journal of Development Economics, 81(1), 80-96.
  • Bourdillon, M. (2009). Children as domestic employees: Problems and promises. Journal of Children and Poverty, 15(1), 1-18.
  • Bwibo, N. O., & Onyango, P. (1987). A report to WHO on child labor and health research. Nairobi, Kenya: University of Nairobi.
  • Church, R. A. (1986). The history of the British coal industry (Vol. 3). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
  • Cunningham, H., & Viazzo, P. P. (Eds.). (1996). Some issues in the historical study of child labor. Child Labor in Historical Perspective—1800-1885—Case studies from Europe, Japan and Columbia (pp. 11-20). Florence, Italy: UNICEF.
  • Dammert, A. (2008). Child labor and schooling response to changes in coca production in rural Peru. Journal of Development Economics, 86(1), 164-180.
  • Diallo, Y., Hagemann, F., Etienne, A., Gurbuzer, Y., & Mehran, F. (2010). Global child labor developments: Measuring trends from 2004 to 2008. Geneva, Switzerland: ILO, International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor.
  • Duryea, S., Lam, D., & Levison, D. (2007). Effects of economic shocks on children’s employment and schooling in Brazil. Journal of Development Economics, 84(1), 188-214.
  • Edmonds, E. V. (2009). Defining child labor: A review of the definitions of child labor in policy research. In International Labor Organization, International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor. Working Paper. Geneva, Switzerland: ILO.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (2010, April 14-16). Report of the FAO workshop on child labor in fisheries and aquaculture in cooperation with ILO. Rome: Author.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) & International Labor Organization (ILO). (2011). Good practice guide for addressing child labor in fisheries and aquaculture: Policy and practice. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved from
  • Forestry. (2013). International Labor Organization. Retrieved January 17, 2013
  • Gibbons, E.D., Huebler, F., & Loaiza, E. (2005). Child labour, education and the principle of non-discrimination. UNICEF Staff Working Papers Division of Policy and Planning Series. New York, NY: UNICEF. Retrieved from
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  • Horrell, S., & Humphries, J. (1995). The exploitation of little children: Child labor and the family economy in the Industrial Revolution. Explorations in Economic History, 32, 1-32.
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  • International Labour Organization. (1969, June 25). Convention concerning labour inspection in agriculture. Adoption: Geneva, 53rd ILC session (Entry into force: 19 Jan 1972). Geneva, Switzerland.
  • International Labor Organization (ILO). (1996). Wageworkers in agriculture—Conditions of employment and work. Geneva, Switzerland: Author.
  • International Labor Organization (ILO). (2001). Tanzania: Children working in commercial agriculture—Tobacco, rapid assessment No. 9. Geneva, Switzerland: Author.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2001, June 21).Convention concerning safety and health in agriculture. Adoption: Geneva, 89th ILC session (Entry into force: 20 Sep 2003). Geneva, Switzerland.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2002a). A future without child labor: Global report under the follow-up to the ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labor Organization 90th Session.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2002b). Trabajo infantil doméstico en América Central y República Dominicana: Síntesis sub regional. San Jose, CA: Author.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2004). Helping hands or shackled lives? Understanding child domestic labor and response to it. Geneva, Switzerland: ILO.
  • International Labor Organization (ILO). (2006). Tackling hazardous child labor in agriculture: Guidance on policy and practice user guide. Turin, Italy: International Training Centre of the ILO. Retrieved
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2007a, June 14). C188 – Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188). Convention concerning work in the fishing sector. Adoption: Geneva, 96th ILC session. Geneva, Switzerland.
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  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2010). Accelerating action against child labor global report under the follow-up to the ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work. Geneva, Switzerland: Author.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2011a). Stopping forced labor—Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work. Geneva, Switzerland: ILO.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2011b). Children in hazardous work what we know, what we need to do. Geneva, Switzerland: Author.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2012, May). Decent work indicators.
  • International Labor Organization (ILO) & IPEC. (2001). Kenya Country Program 1992-2001, Brief Profile of Activities. Nairobi, Kenya: Author.
  • International Labor Organization (ILO) & National Confederation of Employers. (2005). Organizations of the Azerbaijan Republic in Azerbaijan. The role of employers in elimination of child labor in Azerbaijan.
  • International Training Centre. (2010). Children formerly associated with armed forces and groups. “How-to” guide on economic reintegration. Italy: ILO.
  • Kambhampati, U. S., & Rajan, R. (2005). Does child work decrease with parental income? The luxury axiom revisited in India. European Journal of Development Research, 17(4), 649-680.
  • Lieten, G. K. (2006, January 14). Child labor. Economic and Political Weekly, 41(2), 103-108.
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