Child Labor Examples

Child labor is any “…work performed by a child that is likely to interfere with his or her right to education, or to be harmful to his or her health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”1 Child labor examples are prevalent in agriculture, mining, factories and more.

Globally, there is a high demand for fast fashion, fish, metals and many other products for which children provide cheap, unskilled labor. The International Labour Organization estimates that 152 million children—roughly 1 in 10 children worldwide—between 5-17 years old are victims of child labor.2 Child labor history is extensive and tragic.

Child laborers work long, difficult hours. Their jobs may expose them to hazardous chemicals and materials, crowded workspaces, and abuse. Employers can deprive children of food, sleep, and even medical care to motivate them to work.

What are specific child labor examples?


Agriculture

The ILO estimates that over 70% of child laborers work in agriculture.3 Children can work in forestry or on small or industrial farms with livestock or produce. Children help remove rocks to prepare the soil, plant seedlings, weed, apply fertilizers and pesticides, harvest crops, care for animals and handle farming equipment. Children may use small farm tools like machetes and hoes; they may also operate farm equipment like tractors.

Agriculture exposes children to harsh temperatures, chemicals, and physically demanding labor. Working outside can cause heat exhaustion, blisters, infections, or injuries. Long hours in fields or on plantations and farms also deprive children of opportunities to attend school.

Fisheries

Child workers—particularly boys—are crucial to the fishing industry worldwide. Boys may work on ships to dive for fish or repair tangled fishing nets. Boys may also work on docks to guard boats, load, sort and unpack fish, and clean, salt and prepare fish to be sold.

Children working on boats and ships out on the ocean experience harsh weather and spend extended periods away from their families. Child laborers involved in packing, sorting, and preparing fish work in cramped conditions with hazardous tools.

Garment factories

Countries like Uzbekistan, China, Bangladesh, Egypt, Thailand, and Pakistan frequently employ child laborers in garment and textile factories.4 Children will sew buttons, cut, dye and sort fabric and package completed clothing. Children also staff cotton farms and work tirelessly to pick delicate cotton products for shirts, pants and more.

Clothing brands respond to pressure to produce more and more products inexpensively by looking for cheap labor in poor communities. Women and children in developing or impoverished countries do not have options; working long hours in hazardous factories for meager pay helps them provide for themselves and their families.

Mining

Mining is one of the worst child labor examples. Children work in mines to discover gold, salt, ore, cobalt, coal, minerals and more. Mine shafts expose children to falling rocks, collapsing tunnels and regular explosions. The constant mining blasts and digging in tight quarters below ground produce dust and small particles that irritate children’s sinuses and lungs. Inhaling the dust, fine particles and other pollutants can cause respiratory complications and lung disease.5

Children crawl through small tunnels to find minerals or move heavy loads of rock. Mining is physically demanding and hazardous work; the injuries and illnesses from mining can negatively change a child’s life forever. Some children are permanently disabled because of their work in mines; others die prematurely from painful conditions.

Scavenging

Many children scavenge streets, markets and trash heaps for items to sell at the market. Children collect plastic bags, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and other sellable items.

6-year-old Chamroeun joins his mother every morning to collect old cans, plastic bags or plastic bottles to sell.6 If Chamroeun and his mother sell enough goods, they can buy Chamroeun and his siblings food; if they do not earn much money, his mother can only afford a few eggs. Without Chamroeun’s tireless work alongside his mother, his family would go hungry. Millions of children like Chamroeun worldwide belong to families desperate for money to provide for their basic needs; such families often resort to child labor.

Child labor examples should urge us to take action. So how can we end child labor?

GFA World partners with donors to provide vocational training classes for adults to help them develop skills necessary for an occupation like candle making or tailoring. Vocational skills training for adults and parents is one of many child labor solutions because it relieves financial pressure on families making it less likely children will be forced into labor to help the family survive.

Adults with marketable skills can earn additional income to provide life-saving food, clean water, and shelter for their families. When parents make sufficient money to provide for their families, children can remain in school rather than work.

Will you provide vocational skills training for someone today?

Learn more about the effects of child labor

1 “What Is Child Labour.” International Labour Organization. Accessed 26 February 2022. https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm.
2 “Global Estimates of Child Labour. ”International Labour Organization. 2016. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf.
3 “Child Labour in Agriculture.” International Labour Organization. Accessed 27 February 2022. https://www.ilo.org/ipec/areas/Agriculture/lang–en/index.htm.
4 Moulds, Josephine. “Child labour in the fashion supply chain.” The Guardian. Accessed 27 February 2022. https://labs.theguardian.com/unicef-child-labour/.
5 “Mining Topic: Respiratory Diseases.” Center for Disease Control. Accessed 27 February 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/topics/respiratorydiseases.html#:~:text=Miners%20are%20at%20risk%20of,of%20dying%20from%20lung%20cancer.
6 “Meet the Children Whose First Jobs Will Impact them Forever.” UNICEF. 8 May 2016. https://www.unicef.org.au/blog/stories/august-2016/child-labour-stories.
* Cover Photo by ILO Asia-Pacific. https://flickr.com/photos/iloasiapacific/37528197551/.