Grown Up too Soon: The Devastating Effects of Child Labor

Children should be asked questions about what they want to be when they grow up or what class at school they like the best. Children should not be treated for machete wounds from working long, difficult hours in sugar plantations. Their childhood stolen, these youth grow up with the lifelong negative effects of child labor.

No parent plans on pulling their child from school and sending them into day labor. It’s a difficult, often emotional decision for parents to make in the midst of extreme poverty that threatens their very survival. Families who live at or below the World Bank’s poverty line of $1.90 per day are often faced with horrific decisions about their children’s futures.1 With no marketable skills and often no literacy or numeracy, adults must take jobs that anyone can do, such as brick making, farm or plantation work, or other labor jobs. These jobs rarely sustain families. One of the first costs to be cut is often fees related to attending school, preventing the child from continuing in school. Soon, that child is pulled into whatever the parents are doing to help the family survive.

Without schooling, there is little to no chance for that child to escape this same cycle of poverty and child labor. World Vision estimates that at the start of 2020, 63 million girls and 97 million boys were in child labor. Of that, they also have determined that one in three of those children are not in any form of schooling.2

The International Labor Organization defines child labor as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”3

The causes and effects of child labor do not follow a specific formula. The example given above is one possible scenario of how a child might come to be employed. Poverty and poor schooling options are two of the greatest risk factors,4 but other causes include debt bondage, deceitful human traffickers and forced recruitment into the armed forces. There are even countries whose governments not only condone certain forms of child labor but require it during harvest time of major crops.5

The effects of child labor depend on the industry they are in, but deprival of a childhood for development and growth are across the board. General effects include possible injuries, exhaustion, desocialization and isolation. The emotional effects of child labor are unseen and often deeper. They include depression, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, aggression and more.6

International Labor Rights Forum reports,

“Child labor also affects the overall social development of children, since they do not get to spend time with others their own age or even enough time with family members. Children need to build personal positive relationships in order to thrive and feel confident.”7

Rajdev’s own childhood did not start off well, and he very well could have suffered this fate.


His alcoholic father left before he was even born, and his mother, Sibirah, was barely able to take care of him. Though his father tried to return and reconcile, he left again. She was in the exact position of many parents having to choose child labor for their kids.8

But Sirbirah wanted more for her children. She had dreams for them, but dreams are very difficult to hold onto when you already have next to nothing. Sirbirah did have hope, though. Her sister, a believer in Jesus Christ, had once prayed for Rajdev when he almost died from asthma. That same sister was able to introduce her to GFA’s child sponsorship program. It was the miracle she needed.

Through the program, Rajdev not only received an education but also nutritious food, assistance with school fees and opportunities to grow. He excelled. A little boy whose fate was undecided found a way into a future of more hope.

At just $35 a month, child sponsorship can keep children out of child labor. Parents like Sirbirah do not have to make the choice between childhood and labor. Your gift of a sponsorship will combat the devastation of child labor by keeping children in school and cared for. Parents can know that their children have a safe place to receive care and assistance, which is peace of mind for parents and a relief on their expenses.

Sibirah once considered taking her own life when faced with the mounting worries of taking care of herself and her children. GFA workers, through the generosity of child sponsors, were right where they could help her and her children. GFA is uniquely positioned in some of the most vulnerable areas in the world. You can be the catalyst to help provide a childhood that might otherwise be lost to labor, a child who may have to grow up too soon.

Learn more about countries with child labor

1 “Poverty.” The World Bank. Accessed February 25, 2022. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty.
2 “Child Labor: Facts, FAQs, and How to Help End It.” World Vision. Accessed February 25, 2022. https://www.worldvision.org/child-protection-news-stories/child-labor-facts#:~:text=of%20child%20labor-,Fast%20facts%3A%20Child%20labor,labor%20are%20out%20of%20school.
3 “What Is Child Labour.” International Labor Organization, Accessed February 24, 2022. https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm.
4 “Child Labor: Facts, FAQs, and How to Help End It.” World Vision. Accessed February 25, 2022. https://www.worldvision.org/child-protection-news-stories/child-labor-facts#:~:text=of%20child%20labor-,Fast%20facts%3A%20Child%20labor,labor%20are%20out%20of%20school.
5 “Forced and Child Labor in the Cotton Industry.” World Vision Australia. 2012. https://www.worldvision.com.au/docs/default-source/buy-ethical-fact-sheets/forced-and-child-labour-in-the-cotton-industry-fact-sheet.pdf?sfvrsn=2.
6 “Developmental Effects of Child Labor.” International Labor Rights Forum. September 26, 2011. https://laborrights.org/blog/201109/developmental-effects-child-labor.
7 “Developmental Effects of Child Labor.” International Labor Rights Forum. September 26, 2011. https://laborrights.org/blog/201109/developmental-effects-child-labor.
8 “Hope in the Unknown”. GFA World. October 2018. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/hope-in-the-unknown-wfr18-10/.
* Cover Photo by ILO Asia-Pacific. https://flickr.com/photos/iloasiapacific/8763370040/.