Why Is Child Labor Bad?
What does child labor mean? What is the definition of child labor? Child labor is not simple household chores.
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
So why is child labor bad? Childhood is a fundamental time for children’s physical, mental and emotional development. Child labor deprives children of opportunities to go to school, play with friends and thrive as children.
According to UNICEF, 1 in 5 children are victims of child labor in the world’s poorest countries.2 Countries with the worst forced underage labor include Bangladesh, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia.3 In eastern and southern Africa, 26% of children between 5 and 17 years old are child laborers.2 However, child laborers are employed worldwide and in many types of work.
Children are often forcibly employed in agriculture, mining, factories and other industries. They work long, labor-intensive hours, often with no breaks and for minimal pay. These jobs may expose children 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.4 It is not difficult to answer the question, “Why is child labor bad?” Child labor exposes children to harmful working conditions and deprives them of opportunities to be kids. Working deprives children of their education, freedom and hope.
Why are child laborers so common worldwide?
- Poverty — Child labor is common in communities experiencing poverty. The financial strain to feed, educate and care for their children can be too much for many families. Some families sell their children into slavery to make money. Other families need their children to work alongside them to supplement their income. Many families do not have a choice; they need their children to work just to survive.
- Price — It is less expensive to employ children, and many employers will pay children less money for the same work that adults do. Paying children less for their work increases the profit for employers.
- Silence — Children are less likely to speak up about the harsh treatment and poor working conditions in fields, factories and sweatshops. With more life experience, adults might advocate for themselves and their needs, but children will often opt to be compliant under the threat of punishment.
Why is child labor bad? How does child labor affect the child?
- Illness or injury — Working in these hazardous conditions can expose children to sickness, injury and death. The International Labour Office estimates that 374 million workers experience work-related illness or injury, with 2.78 million dying annually. And young workers are disproportionately affected by work related illness and accidents.5 Hazardous working environments expose children to injuries, disease, dust and irritants. Doing hazardous work can cause stunted growth, chronic physical injuries or illness and shorten children’s lifespans.5
- Lack of education — Many studies show how child labor affects education. Working laborious and dangerous jobs deprives children of the opportunity to attend school, as well as affecting their physical and mental health and robbing them of the time to play with their peers. The ILO estimates that nearly 32% of child laborers no longer attend school.6 Instead, these children begin working to help provide additional income for their families. Education, however, is vitally important. It instills good values and critical thinking in children. Education also increases their job and pay opportunities for the future, which can help them break cycles of generational poverty. Education empowers children.
- Hopelessness — Child laborers experience devastating work environments. Some children work 12-15 hours daily doing back-breaking labor. These jobs can be dangerous; children often are underfed and sleep-deprived.7 When jobs expose children to violence, exploitation and deprivation, these children can experience hopelessness. Many children believe their circumstances cannot or will not change.
The ILO estimates that 152 million children—roughly 1 in 10 children worldwide—between 5-17 years old are victims of child labor.6 Child labor is a significant issue worldwide.
What can you do to help stop child labor?
When we ask, “Why is child labor bad?,” we also need to ask, “How can we solve this global issue?”
Please consider supporting GFA World’s efforts to protect children in Asia and Africa from poverty, malnutrition and child labor. GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program helps thousands of children annually. For $35 a month, you can help children, their families and their communities break the cycle of poverty through community-wide solutions, which may include opportunities for education, medical care, protection against malnutrition, clean water and more. When children can attend school with the proper supplies, food and resources, families are less likely to resort to child labor.
Will you join us in helping a child today?Learn more about what is exploitation
1 “From Work to School – Putting an End to Child Labour.” Education International. Accessed January 2022. https://archive2020.ei-ie.org/en/dossierdetail/15116/from-work-to-school-putting-an-end-to-child-labour.
2 “Child Labour.” UNICEF. August 2021. https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/child-labour/.
3 “Worst Countries for Child Labor.” World Atlas. Accessed January 2022. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/worst-countries-for-child-labor.html.
4 “Child Labor in the Fishing Industry in Uganda.” Cornell University ILR School. Accessed January 2022. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/worst-countries-for-child-labor.html.
5 “Improving the Safety and Health of Young Workers.” International Labour Office. 2018. https://www.ilo.org/colombo/info/pub/pr/WCMS_627082/lang–en/index.htm.
6 “Global Estimates of Child Labour.” International Labour Office. 2016. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf.
7 “Socio-cultural Context of Child Labour in Fishing Communities of Cape Coast Metropolis: Implications for Policy and School Counselling.” University of Cape Coast. Accessed January 2022. https://ir.ucc.edu.gh/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/1557/BOANYAH%202011.pdf?sequence=1.
* Cover Photo: “Child labor”. UNAMID. https://flickr.com/photos/unamid-photo/9172806125/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)