World Day Against Child Labor

“The challenge of ending child labour remains formidable. A total of 152 million children – 64 million girls and 88 million boys – are in child labour globally, accounting for almost one in ten of all children worldwide.”

Human trafficking takes many forms in the 21st century. While media and movies have a tendency to only cover sex trafficking, another major stream of exploitation is overlooked.

According to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report, there is a disproportionately larger number of individuals in forced labor exploitation compared to forced sexual exploitation (~16mil to 5mil).

In a concentrated report on child labor, ILO revealed in 2017 that 152 million children aged 5 to 17 years are in child labor across the world and nearly half of those children were involved in “hazardous work”—”work that directly endangers their health, safety, and moral development.” While the United States has laws in place to protect children’s right to education and prevent child labor, many countries do not. Child labor makes a large impact on a child’s ability to attain an education. About 36 million children (32% of all those in child labor) in child labor are deprived of an education. However, the remaining 68% of child labor victims attend school; but research suggests these children perform poorly in school compared to their non-working peers.

The ILO report analyzing the global estimates of child labor documented child labor was more prevalent in countries saturated with conflict and disaster. Countries afflicted with armed conflict had 77% higher rates of child labor than the global average and 50% higher rates of hazardous work than the entire world.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals addresses modern day slavery and child labor with Goal 8.7, proposing to end child labor in all its forms by 2025. Due to the high rates of child labor in developing countries and disadvantaged regions—with Africa, Asia and Pacific regions hosting 9 out of every 10 children in child labor—ILO highlights the importance of addressing child labor in humanitarian responses.

While child labor plays a critical role in millions of children’s lives around the world, progress has been made. Since 2000, there have noticeable decreases of child labor and hazardous work, with a net decrease of 94 million children. However, progress slowed in the last four years of reporting (2012-2016), resulting in increases of child labor in Africa.

Government engagement is essential to effectively counter child labor trafficking. Noticeable decreases in child labor rely “centrally on an active government policy response.” A 2018 ILO report on policies and programs outlines four key policy responses:

  1. Inclusive and equitable quality education for all;
  2. Social protection systems, including social protection floors;
  3. Decent work for adults and youth of legal working age;
  4. Legal standards and regulation.

Underlying each of these elements is social dialogue as a “foundational element.” Demand is a key driver perpetuating child labor trafficking. Ensuring governments, corporations, organizations, and consumers are aware of the harms and prevalence of child labor around the world and how it’s embedded into the modern economy is fundamental to developing policies and programs to end child labor.

GCWJ makes advocacy a key component of combatting exploitation and human trafficking in order to recognize and restore the dignity of all persons. Being a voice and taking a stand for social justice through advocacy at conferences, schools and in churches, we ensure the conversation continues.

Take Action:

1. Tune into ILO’s high-level virtual debate on COVID-19 and Child Labor

2. Listen to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast:

3. Read up on the issues with the U.S. Department of Labor resources and reports on child labor.

4. Enroll in the Anti-Human Trafficking Certificate and take courses with specialized topics like WJST 445-Labor Trafficking.

5. Attend the Ensure Justice Conference in 2021 to connect and engage with individuals dedicated to combatting human trafficking and exploitation


Scroll to Top