Child Labor Definition

According to the International Labour Organization, child labor definition is as follows:

“work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”1

This does not include chores around the house, assisting in a family business, or working during school holiday breaks. These types of work situations can help in childhood development and help children become responsible members of society.2 A key distinction between these work situations and child labor is that children should not miss school to work.

The worst forms of child labor include child slavery, debt bondage, forced labor, and trafficking. Sometimes, there is forced recruitment of children into armed conflicts. It also includes illicit activities such as prostitution and pornography.3 The United Nations’ Convention No. 182 calls for these types of child labor to be eradicated, forbidding children under 18 years old from participating in “armed conflict, illicit activities such as drug trafficking, and in hazardous work.”4

International law specifies that age is a determining factor of child labor.

“Labor performed by a child who is under the minimum age specified for that kind of work (as defined by national legislation, in accordance with accepted international standards), and that is thus likely to impede the child’s education and full development.”5

Additionally, child labor “jeopardizes the physical, mental or moral well-being of a child, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it is carried out, known as ‘hazardous work.’” Sweatshop kids are an example of children involved in hazardous work.

Who is involved in child labor? Child labor is most prevalent in children ages 5 to 11. In fact, nearly half of all forced labor occurs in this age group. It is estimated that 134 million children are in forced labor in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.6

Children may be working in these harmful environments for numerous reasons. For many, they are working simply to survive. Parents are sometimes lured into sending their children to work with promises of free education, consistent meals and wages to help support the family.

One child laborer, Ashmita, lived in her employer’s home and performed domestic work for the family.7 She was a servant—washing dishes, mopping floors and laundering clothes. She worked from early morning until night. When she didn’t work hard enough, her owner would beat her legs with canes.

“The house where I was staying . . . I was very much ill-treated. When everybody [went] to bed after food at night, the house owner used to watch television. While watching the television, she used to ask me to massage her legs. If I am tired, if my hands are hurting, she used to beat me and ask me to massage her properly. One night, when I was massaging her leg, I was very tired and sleepy, and while massaging, I slept off. She went to the kitchen and brought some pepper powder [chili] and put that pepper powder in my eyes.”

Ashmita

When local authorities learned about Ashmita’s situation and how she was being treated, she was rescued and brought to a GFA-supported home for at-risk children. She now plays with other kids and is safe from abuse. She has learned about Jesus and how much He loves her.

You can help end child labor for children like Ashmita.


1) Pray faithfully regarding the child labor issue:

  • Pray for children to be rescued and reunited with their families.
  • Pray for organizations and churches to be effective in helping families with their physical needs, allowing children to stay in school instead of working.
  • Pray for God to encourage and sustain those children who are in forced labor. Pray God will provide for their physical needs such as food and water. Pray for their safety and protection.
  • Pray for the children forced into the sex trade. Ask God to bring brothel owners’ misdeeds into the light. Pray Jesus’ love will shine into the dark places and bring healing.
  • Pray for the governments in Asia and Africa to continue to do even more than they are currently doing to end the exploitation of children.

2) Spend time studying child labor facts and understanding the circumstances of these children and families. Help raise awareness for their plight.

3) You can also help by sponsoring a child through GFA World. The program provides community-wide solutions that help keep children in school and away from child labor. Children and their families may receive essentials like school supplies, nutritious food, hygiene products, educational tutoring, access to clean water and more. These items relieve the financial strain on impoverished families who may be struggling just to survive. Through GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program, children and their families gain hope for a better future.

Join us today!

Learn more about child exploitation

1 “What is Child Labour.” International Labour Organization. Accessed 2 February 2022. https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm.
2 “What is Child Labour.” International Labour Organization. Accessed 2 February 2022. https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm.
3 “Convention on Worst Forms of Child Labour Receives Universal Ratification.” United Nations. 4 August 2020. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/08/1069492.
4 “Convention on Worst Forms of Child Labour Receives Universal Ratification.” United Nations. 4 August 2020. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/08/1069492.
5 Carpenter, Sarah. “Glossary (Slavery & Trafficking).” Assent. June 1, 2020. https://help.assentcompliance.com/hc/en-us/articles/115012918107-Glossary-Slavery-Trafficking-.
6 “Countries in the world by population.” Worldometers. June 2019. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/population-by-country/.
7 “Young Child Laborer Finds New Life.” GFA World. June 2017. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/wfr17-13-1-young-child-laborer-finds-new-life/.
* Cover Photo by ILO Asia-Pacific, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)