Countries with Child Labor

Child labor is a significant issue worldwide. Countries with child labor may experience extreme poverty, under-education and heightened mortality rates.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), child labor is any work that “is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children” or that “interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school.”1 Child labor inhibits children’s physical, mental and emotional development. Also, by depriving children of opportunities to attend school, it deprives them of opportunities to play with their peers and learn about themselves.

UNICEF estimates that 160 million children are victims of child labor and that 1 in 5 children are victims of child labor in the world’s poorest countries.2 Countries with child labor include Bangladesh, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia.3 In eastern and southern Africa, 26 percent of children between 5 and 17 years old are child laborers.2 However, child laborers are employed worldwide in many types of work.

Child labor in Asia is a serious issue. According to ILO studies, there are “30 million children in employment, almost 17 million in child labour and 50 million children out of school” throughout South Asia.4 Every child laborer loses opportunities to attend school, play with their peers and remain healthy.

Child workers in Asia work in many industries, including the following:

  • Agriculture — Children work in forestry or on small or industrial farms with livestock or produce. Children help remove rocks from soil, harvest crops, care for animals and handle farming equipment.
  • Fisheries — Child workers are crucial to the fishing industry. Boys may work on boats to dive for fish and free 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.
  • Garment factories — Child laborers throughout Asia work in factories. They sew buttons as well as cut, dye and sort fabric and package completed clothing.
  • Brick kilns — Countries with child labor frequently employ young children in brick kilns. Here, they may throw clay into molds, carry and stack freshly set bricks and help clean the brick factories.
  • Mining — Mining is one of the worst forms of child labor. Mines expose children to harmful dust, pollutants, explosives and dangerous tunnels. Children crawl through small tunnels to find minerals or move heavy loads of rock. Mining is physically demanding and hazardous work.

Child labor statistics are concerning worldwide; however, child labor disproportionately affects regions in Africa and Asia. Research from the International Labour Organization suggests that child labor in the Asia Pacific region exceeds 17 million children.5 Every child engaged in labor misses opportunities to learn, grow and experience their childhood.

What are the effects of child labor?

  • Loss of health — Children working in mines, factories, farms and more can experience illness, injury and even death. Hazardous working environments expose children to injuries, disease, dust and other harmful irritants. This work can cause stunted growth, chronic physical injuries or illness and can shorten children’s lifespans. Many countries with child labor have limited medical supplies, clinics and medical professionals. Child laborers often do not have access to appropriate medical care.
  • Loss of education — Working laborious and dangerous jobs affects children’s physical and mental health and limits their opportunities to play with their peers and attend school. The ILO estimates that 32 percent of child laborers no longer attend school.5 Instead, these children begin working to help provide additional income for their families even though education instills good values and critical thinking in children.
  • Loss of hope — Child laborers experience devastating work environments. Some children work 12-15 hours daily doing back-breaking labor. These jobs can be dangerous and children in child labor are often underfed and sleep-deprived. When jobs expose children to violence, exploitation and deprivation, these children can experience hopelessness. Many children believe their circumstances cannot or will not change.

Child labor is a worldwide issue. Families experiencing poverty often do not have other options; they must send their children to work and generate additional income to survive. But child labor negatively affects children, their families and their communities. So how can we help?

One of the best ways to combat child labor is through education. Many families need support such as tuition help, food and school supplies to send their children to school. These resources relieve financial pressure on families. Education also increases children’s future job and pay opportunities, which can help them break cycles of generational poverty. Education empowers children.

GFA World is working to educate children and alleviate child labor in Asia Pacific region and Africa through their child sponsorship program. For $35 a month, you can help support a child, their family community, and offer life-changing resources that will help protect that child from poverty, malnutrition and child labor.

Will you join us in helping a child today?

Learn more about gender inequality in school

1 “What is Child Labour.” International Labour Organization. Accessed February 20, 2022.–en/index.htm.
2 “Child labour.” UNICEF. August 2021.
3 “Worst Countries for Child Labor.” World Atlas. Accessed February 20, 2022.
4 “Child labour in South Asia.” International Labour Organization. Accessed February 20, 2022.–en/index.htm.
5 “Global estimates of child labour.” International Labour Organization. 2016.—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf.