By Nishita Makkar

Published On: September 16, 2021, at 18:28 IST


Child Labour is a very well-known term that everyone might have heard about in news or movies. It generally refers to a crime where children are forced to work from very early age. It is like expecting kids to perform responsibilities like working and fending for themselves. There are certain policies which have put restrictions and limitations on children working.

Since Child Labour is a global issue that has been raised from time to time, different countries are working for eradicating it as well as giving a good living standard to the children. The average age for a child to be appropriate to work is considered fifteen years and more. Children falling below this age limit won’t be allowed to indulge in any type of work forcefully.

It is ascertained that at global level every 1 out of 10 children are engaged in child labour. The Covid period has increased the number from 160 million to 169 million[1]. Also, there are countries where child labour is legal include India, Nepal etc. But this is to be known that children below age of 15 years are too young to be involved in hazardous kinds of works especially.

It is a right of every child to get proper health facilities, sanitation, and education at such young age. There are various organisations working for the cause like UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and ILO (International Labour Organisation), the KidsRights Foundation.

When was Child Labour introduced?

Child labour is said to be the birth of Industrial Revolution[2]. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain in 18th century, a rapid increase in industrial exploitation of labour, including child labour was prevailed automatically. Industrial cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool rapidly grew from small villages to large cities and improving child mortality rates.

These cities drew in population that was rapidly growing due to increased agriculture output. The Victorian era became centre for the conditions under which children were employed. Young children were indulged in production factories and mines offering dangerous working conditions. Also, they were expected to do work in coal mines where they could crawl easily than an adult. Moreover, various were working as errand boys, crossing sweepers, shoe blacks, or selling matches, flowers and other cheap goods.

Over-all environment was responsible for exploitation of the children which was even criticised by writers and spokesperson even at international level. Even Karl Marx was opponent of child labour saying that, “British Industries could live by sucking blood, and children’s blood too”,and the U.S. capital was financed by the “capitalized blood of children”. By all the criticism, the child labour began to decline in industrialised societies in second half of nineteenth century.

Reasons for Child labour

The conditions and circumstances are the main reasons for an individual to become what he has become. Also, thinking of society, community and family affects a lot to child working. There are various problems like poverty, conditions, natural disasters, migration etc that can be seen as root causes for the child labour.

Poverty is considered to be the main reason for driving children in workplace. Lack of accessibility to education due to social standards and un-affordability is also a well-known cause. Moreover, natural disasters and climatic changes lead children of rural families to work at initial stage.

Wars between countries as well as mass-migration lead people to live in vulnerable conditions and to improve their standard of living which can lead to worst forms of child labour. Especially the children who are on their own for living, without families especially, also have to go through this phase.

Child Labour trends in Different Countries

The International year for elimination of Child Labour is said to be 2021. As per statistics given by ILO[3], 152 million children are still in child labour globally. Also, almost half of child labour happens in Africa (72 million children), followed by Asia and Pacific (62 million). Though different programmes have been initiated and are in process globally still there is a lot to do in the field. Different countries are having different situations and statistics in Child labour which are needed to be analysed properly:

  • China

It is seen that a developed country like China even has not been able to swipe the social evil of Child Labour properly. The Chinese standard for a person to work is 16 years of age. But it is estimated that 7.74% of children aged from 10 to 15 were working in 2010. Most of the school drop outs are indulged in work at smaller age than prescribed. Mostly child workers vary between 13 to 15 years of age.

China has several laws into effect t prevent child labour like Chinese Labour Law, Law on protection of minors, Prohibition of Child Labour etc.

  • Nepal

The incidence of child labour in Nepal is relatively high compared with other countries in South Asia. According to Nepal Labour Force Survey Act in 2008, 86.2% of children who were working were also studying and 13.8% of the children working only.

The country also prohibits children below 14 years to work and ILO[4] has reported a decrease of 100,000 every year, Nepal still accounts for 1.1 million children between (5-17 years) in child labour. Of these 222493 are estimated to be engaged in hazardous work. Agriculture sector accounts for more than 85% of the total child labour in Nepal.

  • United States of America

Different forms of child labour including indentured servitude and child-slavery have existed throughout the American history. Industrialization was seen as the main cause of child labour in factory work. In the early twentieth century, the numbers of child labours peaked in U.S. which led to introduction of various reforms. In 1900, National Child Labour Committee came into force with a view to eradicate Child Labour.

Various laws as Fair Labour Standards Act (FLSA) were introduced in 1938. This statute was amended periodically but remains the primary federal law dealing with the employment of children. The U.S. has seen a lot of decline in the child labour rates. As per estimates by Department of Labour, there are 500,000 child farm workers in the United States[5].

  • United Kingdom

In United Kingdom, Children can fully start full-time work once they’ve reached the minimum school leaving age- they can work up to a maximum of 40 hours a week. Once someone reaches 16, they get salary through PAYE and after reaching 18 years of age, adult employment rights and rules then apply.

The latest annual figures released by the Home Office (2020) reveal that police recorded 7779 modern slavery crimes in 2019. There was an increase of 6986 cases compared to 2018[6]. Laws relating to Child labour in UK are Health and Morals Act 1802, Mines Act 1842, Education Act, 1870 and many more.

  • Kenya

According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that 8.5% of children or in figure 1.3 million are engaged in child labour. Here, many boys are sent out to herd livestock or harvest sand, while girls are married early or engaged in domestic work as per report by UNICEF and ILO[7].

Covid-19 also has shown great impact on the situation by worsening it. In April 2020, KNBS reported that around 1.72 million people in Kenya lost their jobs in pandemic. Loss of income has induced child labour. Different policies have been made to make a progress in the following concept like National Plan of Action for Children in Kenya (2015-22), National Policy on the elimination of Child Labour, National Employment Policy, 2017 etc.

  • Germany

In Germany, Youth Labour Protection Laws apply to teenagers between 15-18 years, and the children younger than 14 years are not allowed to work are required to attend the school five days per week. Child Labour eradication laws in Germany are The Minimum Wage Act, The Labour Court Act, the Hours of Employment Act etc. which specifies various provisions. Germany had banned child labour on March 9, 1839. But till date there are a lot of children working as child labour. Even in 2019, the capital of Germany had witnessed strikes and procession for safety of children and eradicating child labour[8].

  • Russia

Children in Russia are found in the worst forms of child labour, including in work on the street and in commercial sexual exploitation. The government has recognized children working on the streets as a worst form of child labour in the country. Because of economic pressures, the children below the age of 16 years i.e., of 14 and 15 only if they completed their basic education.  Child labour was formally banned in 1922 in USSR. Even the laws are written like Criminal Code of the Russian Federation Article 240-242.2, 150-151, Labour Code (19, 21, 22) etc.

Despite all the laws and statutes, still children in Russia are living in misery especially after the fall of USSR, Russia has never got a stable financial position[9] due to which the children have to work to support their families.

  • Ireland

In Ireland under the Children Care Act, 1991, the Children Act 2001 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18. As per the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996, employers cannot employ children under the age 16 in regular full-time jobs. Children under the age of 14 cannot be employed. With the efforts of partnership of Ireland with ILO, Ireland has been able to take the statistics of child labour down. Even the education system of Ireland has been proved to be bane for eradicating the root causes of child labour.

  • Guatemala

Guatemala, a country in Central America is quite popular for its gold mines as well as child labour in those gold mines. Children here are engaged in the worst forms of child labour, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Even they perform dangerous tasks in agriculture such as production of coffee. There is lack of a sufficient number of labour inspectors and resources which limited the reach of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare’s ability to combat the worst forms of child labour.

In 2019, Guatemala made a significant advancement in efforts to eliminate child labour. The government introduced new protections for adolescent workers to ensure that they do not participate in the worst forms of child labour[10]. They have also adopted the new Model for Comprehensive Care for Children and Adolescents, a multi-agency mechanism designed to provide care for child trafficking victims.

  • Cambodia

In Cambodia, children are highly indulged in the production of Alcoholic beverages, brick-making and in commercial sexual exploitation which is a result of human-trafficking[11]. Even, when probe was made, it was found that judges in Cambodia have allegedly accepted bribes in the return for dismissal of charges, acquittal, and reduced sentencing for individuals committing such crimes. Even the people have ties with the government itself to not to hamper in admitting child labour.

Some years before, the government has signed an agreement expanding funding to allow the International Labor Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia programme to extend the inspection and decrease the evil. In Cambodia, more than 300,000 children between the ages of 5 to 14 are required to work to support the needs of their families especially because of widespread poverty.

  • Ukraine

It is estimated that close to 8% of Ukrainian children are indulged in work. The worst forms of work are prohibited by national legislation; still, the number of children present in illegal commerce is quite high. The main occupation is the working in coal mines that is worrisome and extremely dangerous in every aspect. Innocent lives are also included in crimes like sex trades which has developed to pornography, prostitution etc[12].

The main problem has been found with street children who are living in misery and are prone to abuse and labour. Article 188 of the Labor Code, 150 of Criminal Code and even Article 21 of the law on the Protection of Childhood (25-27) defines the minimum age for work i.e. 16 and prohibits to work under the age. But there is a huge gap between the laws and the practical application of them.

And many more countries have different rankings and number of child Labour. In some countries, due to conditions, it is legal also. Even laws fail in front of circumstances. Hence, there is a need to upgrade the whole system of countries to protect the children and their childhood. It should be noted that like in a family it is ascertained to provide a child better environment for overall development; similarly, the nations have to come together, and brought up a peaceful environment for the sake of their future pillars.

  • India

India accounts for the second highest number where child labour is concerned. The conditions of the children here are pathetic. It is a serious and extensive problem with many children under the age of 14 years are working in hazards factories. According to the data from census 2011[13], the number of child laborer in India is 10.1 million of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls.

The situation of child labour in India is miserable roughly 160 million children were subjected to child labour at the beginning of 2020 and India contributes a large number in it. It is implying that nearly one-third of India population is below the mark of 18 years which states risk is high. Indian children are facing major issues such as gender inequality, child marriage, malnutrition, child trafficking etc. But the main problem is non-awareness of the cause and legal remedy available.

Negative Effects of Child Labour

The child Labour is a social evil that can result in extreme bodily and mental harm even can lead to death. It also can drive children into slavery and sexual or economic exploitation. The children on the move risk being forced into work or even trafficked subjecting to violence, abuse or other human rights violations. Also, their lives are not even guaranteed in mines and other hazardous works.

And in most cases, children cut off from schooling and health care, restricting their fundamental rights and threatening their futures. Whatever the cause, child labour compounds social inequalities, discrimination, and most importantly, robs girls and boys of their childhood. It also burdens them physically and psychologically.

Hence, there are a lot of negative impacts on children that are indulged in child- labour which are needed to be protected. Also, child-labour should be swiped away from the globe as every child has a right to good environment, standard of living, education and most importantly to live and enjoy their childhood properly without any burden.


As we have seen, Child Labour is a stigma on the whole-world. Any person who is under the age of fourteen years and is doing hazardous work is said to be ding Child Labour, which is nothing less than a crime in different countries. As per doing analysis of various countries, we got to know that child labour still exists all- over the world which is responsible for the deprivation of various children from their childhood leading to destruction of innocent lives.

Various laws by different countries have been introduced various countries to combat the problem. Though there has been a decrease in the trend with efforts, but still a long-way is there to cover. The main focus should be on fighting with the causes of the problem so that there stood no way of even origination of this social-evil.

Awareness programmes and thinking of the society needs to be changed and all the countries and people of the world are needed to be unified for the cause. Laws have to be made and implemented in strict sense, and child-care reforms have to be made more sincerely as it is a question on millions of innocent lives.


[1] UNICEF, “Child Labour rises to 160 million-first increase in two decades” (June 10th, 2021)

[2] HISTORY.COM EDITORS, “Child Labor”, (Last visited on September 11th,2021)

[3] Joint Report by UNICEF and ILO, “Child Labour- Global Estimates 2020, Trends and the Road Forward” (June 2021)

[4]Child Labour in Nepal (ILO in Nepal)”, (Last visited on September 11th, 2021)

[5]Child Labor in United States| American Federation of Teachers2”, (Last visited on September 11th, 2021)

[6]Child Labour in the UK; 4 key trends you need to know’, (Last visited on September 11th, 2021)

[7] WELLINGTON CHIBEBE AND MANIZA ZAMAN, “Let’s end child labour in Kenya”, (Last visited on September 11th, 2021)

[8]Child Labour in Germany”, (Last visited on September 11th, 2021)

[9]Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor- Russia |U.S. Department of Labor”, (Last visited on September 14th, 2021)

[10]Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor- Guatemala| U.S. Department of Labor”, (Last visited on September 14th, 2021)

[11]Child Domestic Labour in Cambodia-ILO” (Last visited on September 14th, 2021)

[12]Realizing Children’s Rights in Ukraine”,(Last visited on September 14th, 2021)

[13] Government of India, “CENSUS DATA on Child Labour, 2011” (Ministry of Labour and Employment)

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