Statistics on Child Labor


1. Prevalence of child labor
2. Geographical breakdown of child labor
3. Sectoral breakdown of child labor
4. The economic cost of child labor
5. The relative harm of child labor
6. Child labor in the US
7. Child labor in Brazil

1. Prevalence of child labor

Estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggest that the number of child laborers worldwide has dropped by a third between 2000 and 2012 from 245 million to 168 million. This is still about 10% of the world’s children, and about 21% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, 85 million children are employed in drug-trafficking, sex work, and other hazardous labor (source, source).

child labor trend


These are the absolute numbers:

child labor trends and statistics


There’s an interesting database about child labor here.

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2. Geographical breakdown of child labor

regional breakdown of child labor


Here are some older data:

child labor

child labor world

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3. Sectoral breakdown of child labor

Only a small number of child laborers – 7 percent – work in industry. The vast majority work in the informal sector, primarily agriculture, but also in services – as hotel and restaurant workers, domestic workers and street vendors.

child labor by sector

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4. The economic cost of child labor

Child labor isn’t just a moral issue; it also has an economic cost:

economic benefits of ending child labor


In Brazil, according to two economists’ research, former child laborers are three times more likely to need their own children to work (source). Child laborers can’t developed their skills and risk condemning their own children to poverty and child labor. If you start your career as an unskilled laborer, you most likely will remain unskilled.

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5. The relative harm of child labor

Child labor is a gross violation of human rights, but at the same time it’s important to avoid sentimentality. When child labor isn’t directly coerced and isn’t a form of slavery one can reasonably argue that the children in question are better off than if international pressure or legislation leads to the eradication of child labor. After all, it isn’t as if most countries where child labor occurs can offer these children adequate education combined with a standard of living higher than abject poverty. Keeping them away from work doesn’t magically improve their situation. The opposite may be true: they are left without an income, and without the education that they should get. It’s not merely the fact that they work that’s causing them to forgo education.

It might “feel good” to oppose child labor, but the alternative for these children is not attending some nice school or relying on parental income; the alternative is an even lower standard of living if they cannot work. (source)

All this doesn’t mean that there are no cases in which the immediate abolition of child labor isn’t the best option. Or that the long term goal shouldn’t be the total eradication of child labor. Or that multinational companies can simply ignore their responsibilities because of the overall dreadfulness of the situation in a particular country they’re operating in.

Sure, the assumption that we’re talking about children who aren’t coerced is vague. Coercion can take several forms: a slave master coerces, but poverty also coerces.

I’ve pointed to a similar counterintuitive case when discussing to pros and cons of sweatshops: they are awful and certainly violations of a number of human rights, but the alternative is often even worse. (See here and here).

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6. Child labor in the US

About 1 million children age 10 to 15 were working in America in 1920 (out of a total population of 12 million kids in that age range). About half worked on family farms. The rest did everything else, working in factories, trained as apprentices, and served as messengers.

As late as 1940, the average American had only a ninth-grade education, and the first enduring, federal child-labor law wasn’t passed until 1938. (source)

child labor in the US

child labor in the US

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7. Child labor in Brazil

In countries such as Brazil, however, child labor still exists today. It’s estimated that some 1.4 million Brazilian children, ranging in age from 5 to 14, are forced to work (source). The majority of those children work in rural areas, where poverty prevails and schools are few and far between.

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109 thoughts on “Statistics on Child Labor

  1. mira says:

    oh my god iam a student in the 11 class and we have an essay about child labor i was schocked after some researches specaily this page really shocked me we really have to try to stop this!!!

  2. ellie says:

    this is horrible and more people need to stand up and do something about it, not just gasp in horror. take initiative and do something!!!

    • Anastasia says:

      i sent an email to the senator about this problem, hopefully they will do something about it. More people should join NGOs. NGOs are organizations that help raise money for ending child labor.

  3. jword says:

    Child labor is necessary because if it was banned the socio-economic trends as well as many marketing opportunities would cease to exist, therefore creating a ‘black hole’ in the world’s economic situation.

  4. just fuck kidz i hate them.

    they deserve labor

    just fuck them

    i dont care

    that is the Korean famous song by 2NE1

    i dont care rerrererererere

    i dont care rererererererer


    • likeicare says:

      Go fuck yourself! children should ork but they shouldnt have to be laborers! Its only child labor if they are doing dangerous jobs. They can work. I don’t care if they work. But at one point you were a kid so your just saying that you don’t care about yourself.

      • tw says:

        I say that you guys need to wash ur mouths out with soap. I don’t appreciate going onto sites where there are just going to be cuss words. It’s unfair and apparently u don’t have a very large vocabulary if all u can think of using is cuss words. Seriously?? Come on guys, I know ur smarter than that… Thanks!

    • Zoe says:

      Shut your mouth. How would you like it? Here, your a 11 year old, you live in Sierra Leone with the rest of your family. When you were younger, you used to go to school every morning and learn! Now, since your mother is getting older, you have to stay home, cook, feed, wash, clean, and make the daily trip of 3h’s out to the well to get fresh water.

    • Mimi says:

      I dont think you should say that, show a little empathy, how would you feel if you were in their shoes, kids are smal and delacate, they arent ready for big jobs :( think about it

    • Marwa says:

      What the absolute hell? You were a child once! How can you just say ‘Oh, I hate kids. No child deserves this kind of labour. No human does. Except probably you

    • Sally says:

      You are an embarrassment to the Blackjack fandom.
      Please never quote 2NE1 in such a derogatory way again.

  5. anonymous says:

    I think this is a terrible thing and it needs to end now, I agree with all those who oppose child labor, this isn’t the only site that I visited and it is frightful how badly children are treated at such young ages. This needs to end NOW.

  6. Morgan says:

    Child labor is a huge issue, and yes something needs to be done. However the issue lies a lot deeper than just children in the workforce, families cannot afford to feed the children so in order to survive they have no choice but to work, by working and not attending school the children are never able to improve their own living conditions, therefore their children will likely have to deal with the same problem of working to survive. To end child labor we need to start by educating all of these children and to do that u have to convince the nations that they would in fact be better off if they put the child into school instead of work.

  7. Blythe Dillingham says:

    Above is the link to a child labor prevention PSA that my classmates and I created. We are hoping to instill hope and motivate people to take whatever action they can!

  8. My Dear Friends,

    Why are we looking only one side of the coin. There are also plus points attached to the child labor. If the dont work they might start begging or drug traffaking or might get in to child prostitution.

    • Kate says:

      Are you freakin’ Crazy??? You think there’s a PLUS side to children working? Children can get severely injured from working plus they need this time to just be kids and not jump into taking upon themselves adult responsibilities.

  9. garimakapoor says:

    Having a primary education is a right of every child. Providing universal education to the children is one of the Millennium Development Goals


    Globally more than 173 Million people stood up against poverty in 2009, a Guinness World Record!

    Let us break this record in 2010!

    Be the voice for the millions of poor people living across India.

    It is Time for You to STAND UP AGAINST POVERTY NOW!

    Join us on Facebook at and check out the photo album section for the event pictures.

    Follow us on Twitter at

  10. LAWRENCE says:

    child labour is a very bad thing, but other kids have no choice but to do it.
    I say this because sub-saharan countries in africa are very poor for instance Zimbabwe has avery low

  11. Magg says:

    I’m also in the 11th grade and also working on a project about child labour!
    I came across this page while doing my research and found a lot of useful information.
    We do need to stop this, it’s just terrible how little kids are forced to work in such conditions…

  12. The Mastermind says:

    I am shocked about child labour and how it is affecting child labourers. I was most alarmed when I heard that they are mainly used for sex.

  13. Isabella says:

    This is absolutely disgusting! The percentage of child slavery is way too high, it should be 0%..everywhere!
    The saddest part of all is that no one is really pushing themselves to stop this from happening! Sure we’re got organizations and foundations against this major world issue. However, how have they helped if the percentage keeps rising? We’ve all got to work together, before our whole world turns upside down.

  14. cj says:

    maybe we should put you to work in slavery , you were a child once to……
    are you stupid haven’t you read the percentage? you work for good money right?
    point made

  15. Roman says:

    hey child labor is a very negative thing indeed, its a curse which should be demolished, but then what about the children who are the only income earners??they have to feed their much younger brother or sisters or a sick mom or dad. i have seen such situations where the children are not forced but are willing to work, due to their financial instability. in the world where the prices of commodities are increasing. maybe just a parent earner is not enough!!all over here people are saying “stop child labor” and other things, cursing people employing them. but what if the child needs the money to run his family.
    SO I URGE THE WORLD COMMUNITY!! IF U WANT TO REALLY STOP CHILD LABOR, STOP DEMANDING FOR STOPPING IT. BUT FIGHT THE ROOT CAUSE..Poverty etc in an economy should be corrected, and focused on along with free education and better lively hood.
    hope some day, we can think of child labor as a NIGHT MARE

  16. hell was ful so i'm bak says:

    we ppl arennt doin anything…… u noee…… wwe r just commentiing dat we should abolish child labour………….. but we aren’t relly doin anythin………… we need to stand up against child labour………
    and abolish it…………….

  17. Seriously all you people coming in here and swearing and dont care about kids and what they have to go through… then why are you wasting your time and other poeples times going sites like this writing stupid trash. I advise you to get yourselves a life. Yes I agree that children should be working but not young little kids they have a whole life ahead of them, and espically with the conditions that is not humanity. Kids at the age of 14 or 15 should start working BUT getting a proper wage and benefits not in those types of conditions. I mean to not give them a proper pay but to have them work in such conditions like that COME ON WHAT IS WRONG WITH THOSE ANIMALS! In most cases people get less then 5 cents an hour and if you have to go pee well then thats to bad they dont care. The average amount of sleep needed for every human is 8 hours well they get about 2 hours or less and if you dont do what is expected of you or not enough of what they tell to make or do they beat you. You get very little food a day very little to the point you wouldn’t believe it. For all you people who think you have it bad well nows the time to be thankful for what you got rather then what you dont theres people out there who would probably do just about anything to have half of what you got. To the person whos saying the economy will crash well they can get those made in other ways. You dont need to put them through labour to get them done. People would do it for alittle money or even for free & even if your going to kidnap kids and make them work have some sanity and heart dont treat them like their some kind of dog. Atleast treat with respect and like humans and give them better conditions. & if the economy were t crash then so be it Humans created the economy & if it does crash for what ever reason we can fix it. Childeren are the future of the world. Saving a life is a million times better then saving the economy. Childeren bring us happiness and joy expcept sometimes they can be annoying. Economy brings us stress … bills to pay going to work everyday are dollar went down theres another recession were getting layed off….. OMG WHAT DO WE DO ?! your kids maybe another mouth to feed but they make you feel better and put a smile on your face.

  18. Zoe says:

    Ok, I’m sorry to say people, but writing “We have to do something!” or “What should we do?!”, It’s great that you want to help, but if you really want to do something, get off your butts, away from the glowing computer screen, and get out. Help by donating money, join a group against child exploitation, go to the library and read up about it. That’s how you can help. Raining out right now? Skip the part about getting away from your computer and look up “Free The Children” Visit that site, read through that whole site. After you’ll know 5-10 ways to help off the top of your head.

  19. trying to help says:

    Im a 6th grader and im looking for research on child labor,because i have an essay to be done, but this page really made me fell dismayed. I hope someone will stop this!

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  21. we must really stop publishing his page……..
    child labour is a terrible thing……we must eradicate this …the idea must come from our heart but not if any one says it…….please…stop child labour in your areas ……

  22. Kathryn M. says:

    Child Labor is terrible and I do not support it at all, however, after reading Kelsey Timmerman’s book, Where Am I Wearing, my thoughts towards labor factories slightly changed. The factory workers are extremely grateful for the factories because they provide the workers with enough money to buy two meals a day, which is more than they would have otherwise. If the factories were not in their country the women may be forced to resort back to prostitution, and the children may have to beg and steal in order to survive. In this case, factories provide a better way of life for the people. However, the workers are only supplied with a short-term benefit because eventually the factories move to a different third world country where the labor is cheaper. Core countries, like the United States, take advantage of less developed countries.

  23. jack says:

    I find it frustrating when people say “omg we have to stop this” and then two days later their found sitting around… THIS IS AN INSPERATIONAL RAGE GET OFF YOUR ASSES PEOPLE AND LETS FINISH CHILD LABOR!!

  24. RONNIE T-G PAIN says:

    am very sad when i see little children in the street of Africa selling during schooling hours. i dont know the the govt of our various countries are doing. from today am starting to fight against child labor in my upcoming movies to educate the public on it. pls come let join hands together to fight against this big disease in africa.
    am in ghana
    00233 247 950 003 OR 00233 243 11 2235

  25. Warren Fountain -facebook.. get at me says:

    We have to encourage child labor! , these lucky kids are only receiving a minimum of 5 daily beatings when its common sense they can take atleast 15. they are given way to much food and are clearly spoiled so lets all comment on a website about how outrageous this is and keep the obvious thought in our head that we wont donate or contribute to the destruction of the root cause because we feel for them but not enough to help, if you call this sad and don’t help its clearly not sad because its not happening to you.. do the world a favor, donate your life savings and jump in a pit of armed nazis you bunch of dumbass overpriced nike wearing hypocritical buttplugs

  26. Jillian Mourning says:

    I do tend to agree with the above statement. A bit harsh but there is truth in it. Americans especially live in the American bubble that if it isn’t happening to me it isn’t my problem or I care but not enough to get off my butt and do anything. If the amount of people who claim this is a problem actually did something for it even donated a few dollars instead of buying that extra cup of Starbucks for week it would make a huge difference. There are a ton of non-profits in every community to support different initiatives and anyone can help. Even if you can’t afford to donate money, donate time, or donate your trade to someone who is trying to make a difference. I run a non-profit for human trafficking and I’m 24. A lot of people in my community haven’t been able to donate money but they donate time or provided services to me. There are a lot of ways to give back but you have to walk the walk not just talk the talk.

  27. Jillian Mourning says:

    I don’t agree with encouragement of child labor or beatings let me make that clear. But I do agree with the hypocrisy of people who say they care but don’t do anything about it.

  28. Look at what the USA children have become! They all want the latest smart phones, the XBOX, public schools don’t educate them, many become involved in gangs, many kids have no goals, many think they should receive a job paying $100,000 a year right out of high school or college…no appreciation for the suffering of others, no value of hard work, then complain when foreigners enter the USA and “take their jobs!” I’m NOT advocating kids working 12 to 18 hour days, but up to 30-32 hours a week will NOT kill them, but teach them the value of hard work!
    This is why Latin American workers are so productive, they are taught EARLY in life to work and thus, they come to America MORE prepared than many Americans to work…this is why immigrants are so prized by business ownership and management!
    The USA needs to lighten up on all the regulations that stop people from being entrepreneurs and self starters!

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  30. Hira says:

    Omg!! i feel so sorry for thoughs kids who work so hard and we complain that we want the lastest things out now, i bet they dont even know if thoughs things even exist, we have to stop this they deserve a better life, a childhood. :(

  31. Marwa says:

    I think I’m the only English person here :D! It’s weird because, here, we spell loads of words with an extra vowel like favour, labour, honour, armour and colour. Ah! They all come up with a red squiggly line :) I am really disgusted by children being exploited into a world of hard, usually illegal labour. It really has to stop!

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