A general definition of child labor according to the International Labor Organization is “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.” There are various types of child labor, and they are generally categorized by severity or an age restriction. For example, the worst forms of child labor are child slavery, debt bondage, forced labor, human trafficking, prostitution and pornography. Another key factor is whether it jeopardizes the physical, mental or moral well-being of a child. For example, if the child is forced to do hazardous work or work that is not conducive to their age, this would be another identifying characteristic.
Is child labor illegal? Yes, but it is prevalent. Children ages 5 to 11 make up half of all forced labor. It is estimated that 134 million children are in forced labor in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Where is child labor around the world most prevalent? Somalia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Liberia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and Bangladesh top the list. While the continent of Africa contains nearly half of the world’s child laborers, Asia comes in next at 41 percent, which equates to more than 62.1 million children.
Child labor today is prevalent in these regions because poverty is high. For many, this is the only way their families can think of to survive. Parents are sometimes lured into sending their children away to work by being promised their children will receive an education, good meals, and sometimes even wages to send back to the family. Unfortunately, these are often empty promises. Many parents never see their children again. Those children are abused, forced to work long hours in harmful conditions.
GFA World is working diligently to provide solutions to families who think sending their kids to work is a good option for their children. Here are some solutions that have been effective in the fight against childhood labor:
- Education about kids working – One of the most effective deterrents to childhood labor is for parents and children to be educated about what child labor is and to understand the promises they may receive from employers are often false. Through community development and our programs for children, we can share with the children what to avoid and how to protect themselves from predators or being lured into a dangerous situation.
- Child sponsorship – Through child sponsorship, they are given practical help that can mean a tremendous amount to a family living in poverty—school uniforms and supplies, access to clean water, nutritious food, tutoring and household supplies. These items may relieve enough financial pressure for the family to not look for other means of income. When a parent knows their child is getting nutritious meals, that is one less person to feed each day.
- Income-generating skill training – GFA provides classes for adults who want to provide a higher income to meet their family’s needs. For example, they can receive training in farming, sewing, gardening, etc. These new skills can be used to create goods to sell at the market or even open their own business. Literacy classes are essential as well because when people learn to read and write, they are suddenly equipped to provide for their family in new ways.
- Family Gifts – When a family receives a cow, goat or a pair of chickens, life changes. Eggs can be sold or used for food. A gift of seeds can produce a garden that continues for generations. A gift of a sewing machine can give a woman a new and exciting way to make money for her family. She can provide tailoring services for her community.
GFA has brought these life-changing solutions to Asia for decades. Through these practical solutions, we have seen communities transformed with Christ’s love. When families receive help, they have hope and are less likely to send their children to work.
Through training and support, parents begin to understand how important education is to their children. For it is because of education that the cycle of poverty is broken. For many of these families, this cycle of poverty has occurred for generations. It is important for them to realize it can be broken and there is hope beyond their current circumstances.
Will you join us in providing positive tangible solutions to childhood labor?Learn more about girls’ education
 “What is Child Labor. International Labor Organization. https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm. Accessed 2 February 2022.
 “Convention on Worst Forms of Child Labour Receives Universal Ratification.” United Nations. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/08/1069492. August 4, 2020.
 “Countries in the world by population.” Worldometers. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/population-by-country/. June 2019.
 “Worst Countries for Child Labor.” World Atlas. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/worst-countries-for-child-labor.html. Accessed October 8, 2022.
 “Global Estimates of Child Labour: Results and Trends 2012-2016.” International Labour Office. https://www.ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_575499/lang–en/index.htm.
* Cover Photo: “”Child labour in a metalware factory in Bangladesh.” Shagor Khan. https://www.flickr.com/photos/113504075@N05/16526574938/. March 4, 2015