More about child labour

Four girls in blue dresses pick weeds
© UNICEF/UNI48311/Pirozzi

Millions of children around the world are trapped in child labour, depriving them of their childhood, their health and education, and condemning them to a life of poverty and want. Of course, there is work that children do to help their families in ways that are neither harmful nor exploitative. But many children are stuck in unacceptable work - a serious violation of their rights.

Current global estimates [PDF] based on data of UNICEF, the International Labour Organisation and the World Bank indicate that 168 million children aged 5 to 17 are engaged in child labour. In addition, millions of children suffer in other worst forms of child labour, including slavery-like practices such as forced and bonded labour and child soldiering, sexual exploitation, or are used by adults in illicit activities, including drug trafficking. Child labour spans various sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, quarrying and mining, and domestic services. Child labour is the combined product of many factors, such as poverty, social norms condoning it, lack of decent work opportunities for adults and adolescents, migration, and emergencies.

Despite a steady decline in child labour of about 30% since 2000, progress is far too slow. At current rates, more than 100 million children will still be trapped in child labour by 2020. The continuing persistence of child labour poses a threat to national economies and global value chains and has severe negative short and long term consequences for the fulfilment of children's rights, including denial of education and frequent exposure to violence.

Child labour is preventable, not inevitable. UNICEF believes that effective action against child labour requires children to be placed squarely at the centre of programmes designed to protect children's rights. Looking at child labour through a broader lens- addressing the full range of children's vulnerabilities and protection challenges - comes as a result of the recognition that these wider concerns are not always fully addressed in action against child labour. In various countries and regions, UNICEF and partners have strengthened child protection systems, which have led to a comprehensive response to children's issues. In turn, this has resulted in decreased child labour and an overall improvement of children's well-being. Access the most recent data on child labour prevalence by country and region here. For more information on UNICEF's approach to tackling child labour, click here. [PDF]