Child Labor

Some 168 million children are not in school today because they are forced to work. Children as young as five years old are part of the global workforce. In factories and in fields, children work up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. Agriculture, mining, fishing, seafood processing, manufacturing, hospitality, domestic work and street vending are a few of the many sectors where child labor is rampant.

Child labor is one of the worst forms of exploitation. Child workers are deprived of education, forced to work in dangerous situations, beaten and sexually abused and crippled by work-related illnesses and injuries. Children are sold or indentured to employers who pay impoverished families for the use of their children. An ensuing cycle of poverty pushes adults from their jobs and drives down wages worldwide.

Although most countries have laws against child labor, and it is banned by officially recognized conventions (agreements) between nations and the United Nations and the International Labor Organization (ILO), child labor exists globally. Child labor is most common in workplaces and sectors where there are no unions and where other worker rights violations, such as pay inequity, discrimination, and lack of health and safety measures, are widespread.

The Solidarity Center and our partners around the world are exposing the problem of child labor, pushing for policies that prepare young people for the workplace, and promoting more effective national action plans to curb this intolerable abuse of worker rights and human rights. Through Solidarity Center programs, more kids are staying in school—while their parents earn decent wages so their children don’t have to work.

The Solidarity Center believes that at the heart of an effective anti-child labor strategy is the understanding that government must be willing to safeguard rights that allow individuals, unions and other civil society actors to promote decent work, have access to education and participate in democratic advocacy. The Solidarity Center’s comprehensive strategy for combating child labor strongly focuses on promoting decent work for adults as a long-term sustainable way to improve the quality of life for families, address the underlying economic root causes of child labor, and empower entire communities.

Find out more about the role of unions in eradicating child labor.