Child Labor – An Overview

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"Child labor is the single most important source of child exploitation and child abuse in the world today."
ILO Conference Report, 1996

Children continue to be the most vulnerable in our world’s society. While we live in an era of unprecedented global economic integration, competitive pressurers feed the need for an ever-cheaper supply of labor, and child labor is the cheapest of all.

Child labor is a socioeconomic problem that encompasses a host of social and economic factors, including the role of children in trafitional societies, poverty, and the availability of basic services. The work of children ranges from "work" that does not interfere with the education and development of a child to exhaustive, dangerous or illegal "labor" that is abusive and exploitative; including child slavery and trafficking, prostitution, soldiering or hazardous work that places the child’s health, safety or morals at risk.

The problem of child labor has been on the international agenda for a relatively short period of time, most notably since the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989. Since that time, projects have been designed and implemented throughout the developing world, primarily led by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

How many children work and what kind of work do they perform?

All around the world 211 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working. At least 60 million are working under dangerous or abusive conditions. The majority of working children work in the agricultural industry (70%), but children are working in many other industries as well. Here are some examples of the types of child labor situations that children can be found:

In West Africa children are exposed to hazards while harvesting cocoa beans

In Burma, Burundi, Columbia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan they serve as soldiers…

In some parts of the world girls and boys are trafficked into prostitution while others work on agricultural plantations and other industries

In Asia, Africa and Latin America children haul bricks.

Children who work long hours under dangerous conditions are deprived of their rights to an education. The worst forms of child labor places a child’s health, safety and morals at risk and can endanger the child’s life.

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