Child Labor: Types, Causes, Consequences

The child labor is an issue of concern worldwide. Thousands of children are forced to perform very hard tasks daily.

You may be wondering what the boundary between child labor or exploitation is and what tasks a healthy child of a certain age can do.


What is child labor?

Sometimes the line that separates this type of crime from those tasks that help the development of childhood can be very thin.

It is important to take into account the number of hours that the child is subjected to the task, as well as the goals behind it.

Also within the childhood there is a range of ages, and it is not the same a 4 year old doing a hard job, that one of eleven selling lemonade.

However, the International Labor Organization is very clear when defining Child Labor:

It is the one that deprives the children of living their childhood stage in a natural way. They are the tasks that prevent them from developing properly and in a dignified way.

Translated into daily actions, child labor is one that:

  1. It does not allow them to go to school properly. Whether they are unable to attend classes regularly or have little time to study, the learning process is interrupted or altered.
  2. It compromises your physical integrity and your mental health. Sometimes the task means more physical effort than they can bear. Also, and not least, the child’s mental health is at risk, as he has to live in situations where he is not psychologically prepared.
  3. It affects their personal relationships. Physical work takes time away from children to play and interact with peers, which is critical to proper development.

Child labor statistics: surprising numbers

According to data released by Unicef, it is estimated that approximately 150 million children work around the world, between 5 and 14 years.

Child Labor


This figure has been decreasing in recent years, although it is a very high figure anyway.

When @nalyzing the geographical distribution of these children, Africa is the continent at the top of the list. On average, one in four African children carries out child labor.

Asia ranks second and data indicate that one child out of eight performs paid work on this continent.

In Latin America, this number decreases to one in ten.

Globally, there has been a slow decline in the number of children performing child labor. However, in Africa the figure continues to increase.

Types of child labor

Depending on the culture of the country, the socio-economic level of the place and how severe social policies are, Child Labor is presented in different ways.

One of the worst forms of child labor is one that involves clear conditions of slavery.

In this case children are often separated from their family and receive little or no remuneration, they only work for food.

Two other modalities that are also among the worst forms of child labor are prostitution and child pornography.

However, beyond the various forms, Unicef ​​distinguishes between two major types of child labor:

  1. Children working within the family. Together with their parents and brothers in families of peasants or artisans, children work and contribute to the economy of the house.

In this case, the typical situation responds to a great poverty of the family, which does not have infrastructure or the minimum social guarantees.

In these cases the child usually works a few hours and although he does it in precarious conditions, the whole family participates of such conditions.

  1. Children work under orders from third parties. Often multinational companies hire this type of labor. Other times they are people who have fraudulent business and take advantage of vulnerable conditions.

It is in this second group that the worst cases of child exploitation are generally found.

The 5 industries that most employ child labor

Do you know which products are the most child labor? Here’s the “top five”:

1-Gold extraction

This precious metal in jewelry and electronics is a major cause of child labor.

Extraction work in underground artis@nal mines employs thousands of children. It is a job that involves extreme environmental conditions, many of them extremely toxic to the body.

Countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Senegal and Indonesia, are among the most employed children for this type of task.

2-Cultivation of Cotton

Being the most used textile fiber, this crop demands a lot of labor worldwide.

In countries like Uzbekistan, children are forced to work on their crops during school break.

Brazil also has a high percentage of child labor in this sector.

In these cases, social policies have not been successful in curbing the situation.

3-Sugar Cane Farming

It is a case very similar to the previous one, with the aggravating that the conditions represent greater risk for the children. Heavy and sharp tools seriously compromise the health of children.

4-Manufacture of Bricks

Children working with bricks

In countries like Nepal, Pakistan and India, it is very often that when a family contracts a debt that it cannot pay, it sends its children to make bricks.

Unfortunately, this practice is traditional, and for that reason it still remains in force. These children work long hours, often in adverse weather conditions.

5-Coffee Growing

Especially African and Latin American children are subjected to demanding working conditions in the coffee industry.

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At the time of harvest, they usually work ten hours a day, while in the sowing, the preparation of the soil and seedlings, work up to 8 hours a day.


  • Armed conflicts.
  • Sexual exploitation.
  • Cultivation of land.
  • Fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Cattle rising.
  • Causes of child labor

These children, in most cases, are forced by their parents or relatives to perform paid work.

Another characteristic is that who hires this type of labor, pays less than what would correspond to an older person.

In this way a business is established around the work of children, which feeds and strengthens one of the scourges of humanity.

Even in many cases, the remuneration for the work these children perform is not economic. In exchange for long hours of work, he is given the food of the day.

Why is child labor still persisting?

Surely you think, like most people, that child labor is something that should not exist, since all children have the right to develop properly.

While the number of working children has been declining slowly and there has also been a decline in the number of children employed in the worst forms of child labor, many still continue to work in dire conditions.

Professionals explain this reality through the following causes:

  • The vast majority of children in the child labor market belong to poor households. This is a cause that enhances the kind of vicious circle that is established around the problem.

Children leave the education system to work, are not trained and therefore remain poor. And future generations follow the same path.

The poverty that is established and strengthened over the course of generations is not only economic.

By being excluded from the educational system, the value framework is vulnerable to other miseries.

Vices such as alcohol, tobacco, and drug use begin to prowl around the environment in which exploited children move.

  • Inefficient state policies. When states lack clear rules on child labor, the problem is immediately established.
  • Many entrepreneurs and smallholders see in child labor a valid mechanism to make their businesses more profitable. This is complemented by the lack of a legal framework that severely punishes this type of crime.

Education deficit. When there is a demand for a service, it is that there are people convinced that that service is the solution for your business.

In the demand for child labor there is a clear deficit in terms of education and values. These are inculcated and transmitted in the home and in the educational settings.

It is also the family environment that often promotes the exploitation of their own children, because it is not able to see beyond basic and immediate needs.

Probably these same people were exploited during their childhood as well.

In short, the problem of child labor is still important globally.

When there is less poverty, more education and better state policies, surely this situation can improve.