Causes of Child Labor

Causes of Child Labor

The causes of child labor can vary, and views on the matter can contrast significantly based on one’s perspective. For example, the perspective of the family needing money, and thus compelled to have their children contribute to the family income, will be vastly different than that of the industry using child labor.

Let’s begin by discussing the view of the industry, the perpetrator of the child laborer.

Efficiency – Sometimes, a child can more quickly or accurately perform tasks that are harder for an adult to accomplish. For example, in cotton fields, a child’s hands don’t damage the crop while harvesting.

Wages – Simply put, a child requires less pay than an adult. The fashion industry is an example of this cause of child labor. The industry aims to be fast and very cheap in their production. It’s called the “race to the bottom.” Brands try to put out new lines quickly, and since children cost less to hire, it becomes advantageous for garment factories to hire them.

Compliance – Children are often compliant to whatever working conditions they are subjected to, and they don’t have a frame of reference to know when it is wrong. Even when forced to work long days or in a dangerous work environment, they don’t ask for better conditions—they are a silent workforce.

There are laws against child labor, but perpetrators commonly know how to hide their child laborers from the auditors and inspectors. Sometimes the ages of workers are falsified or unavailable. Other times, children lie to avoid punishment.

How many people are in child labor? When studying how much child labor is in the world, the Child Labor Coalition estimates that 152 million children are involved in forced child labor and approximately 218 children as young as five years old are employed.

Why would a family choose such a path for their children? What are the causes of child labor for them? Let’s learn from Sumana’s family, whose situation is similar to many families in Asia.

Sumana’s family had struggled with poverty for generations. They were livestock farmers, but they weren’t bringing in enough income to meet their needs. Her family also belonged to one of the most discriminated people groups in their country. As a result, much of their land had been confiscated and given to others. Sumana’s parents decided to move to the city in search of a better life for their family.

Once they arrived, her parents began working in a carpet factory, and soon Sumana quit school to join them. She didn’t want to quit school, but she thought that her younger siblings could remain in school and learn if she worked. It was a sacrifice she was willing to make. Only earning approximately $1.60 per day, Sumana found that searching for a better life was futile. Coming to the same realization, her parents decided to leave Sumana and her younger sister in the city to work while they returned home to the farm. Over time, Sumana’s dreams faded, but she worked hard and re-enrolled her sister in school. She understood that education was the answer and she wanted her sister to have the opportunity that she gave up. Sadly, despite Sumana’s sacrifice, her sister struggled in school and her grades faltered.

One day, Sumana told a coworker about her sister, her difficult time in school and how hard they were working to survive. The two sisters would get up every day and part ways—one to work and one to school. Her sister struggled at school and she struggled at work.

The coworker told Sumana about GFA World and how her children were helped with financial assistance and educational tutoring through GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program. With new hope, Sumana contacted GFA World’s program staff and found help for her sister—tutoring, nutritious food, hygiene products and more. Her sister soon progressed to the top of her class.

From this example, we learn some causes of child labor from the family’s perspective:

  • Excessive poverty is the most prevalent cause, and there is an immense connection of child labor in relation to poverty.
  • Expenses related to school. Even if school tuition is provided free of charge, other supplies are necessary to attend. Impoverished families often can’t afford uniforms and other supplies.
  • Parents facing desperate circumstances can enter their children into child labor under the pretense of a better life. Often, parents are promised that their children will receive an education, three meals a day and a good wage.

GFA World helps families in Asia and Africa. They provide hope to families who might otherwise resort to child labor to feed their families. Through child sponsorship, you can help make the impossible possible! For just $35 a month, you can help a child, their family and their community break the cycle of poverty. Through your sponsorship, a child will receive essentials such as educational tutoring, school supplies, hygiene products, nutritious food and clean water.

Learn more about child slavery

1 Maki, Reid. “10 Basic Facts about Child Labor Globally.” The Child Labor Coalition. July 16, 2018.