Countries with child labor

Why Do Child Workers In Asia Leave School?

Child labor contributes to illiteracy and undereducation. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are over 17 million child laborers in South Asia.1 Child workers in Asia may work in brick kilns, fisheries, plantations and more. The worst countries for child labor in Asia include Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.2

Child laborers often work long, labor-intensive hours with no breaks for minimal pay. These jobs may expose children to hazardous chemicals and materials, crowded workspaces and abuse. Employers sometimes even deprive children of food, sleep and even medical care to motivate them to work.

How does child labor affect education?

  • Illness or injury — Working in hazardous conditions can expose children to injuries, disease, dust and other harmful irritants which can prevent them from attending school regularly. Many impoverished families do not have access to appropriate medical treatments that can help children heal. When serious illnesses or injuries are left untreated, children can develop life-long medical conditions.
  • Time — Many children must work 12-14 hours a day for minimal pay because even small amounts of money can make a difference for families experiencing poverty. However, children working full days often do not have the time, energy or attention to attend school. Other children live at their workplaces; they do not go home to see their families or attend school.
  • Perspective — Child laborers often come from families experiencing dire poverty whose parents also work in common labor. Some parents do not understand the importance of education because they also did not attend school. So, many child laborers do not value education or see how it can change their circumstances. Children doing hard labor may feel such labor is their only option.

A study conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization demonstrates that child labor decreases children’s enrollment and success in school.3 Many child laborers do not attend school at all; others infrequently attend school and, as a result, their productivity, grades and engagement in classes decline significantly.

Education is crucial to a child’s future. Education helps children develop reading, writing and math skills they will use for future jobs, business transactions and everyday tasks. School also helps children build critical thinking skills, a sense of self and hope for their future. Children who regularly attend school and complete their education can qualify for higher-paying jobs to help break cycles of poverty for themselves and their future families.

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Learn more about countries with child labor

1 “Child Labour in South Asia.” International Labour Organization. Accessed February 20, 2022.–en/index.htm.
2 “Child Labour in South Asia.” International Labour Organization. Accessed February 20, 2022.–en/index.htm.
3 Sakurai, Riho. “Child Labour and Education.” UNESCO. 2006.