Unmasking the Reality: Strategies for the Elimination of Child Labor

“Children are not commodities, yet millions bear the burden of labor worldwide.” This stark reality echoes through the pages of history, persisting in the present and casting a shadow on the future. As the year 2021 was designated as The International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, we find ourselves at a crucial juncture to unravel the tangled web of this pervasive issue, including the COVID-19 impact on child labor. Behind the veil of innocence lies a troubling truth, one that demands our attention, understanding, and resolute action. Let us delve into the dark corners where child labor thrives, unmasking its devastating impact on countless lives and exploring the path towards a future free from exploitation.

Child Labor as it Exists Now – A Review of the Numbers:

The statistics relevant to child labor have barely changed, if at all, on a global basis. As our previous report stated, “An estimated 218 million children as young as 5 years old are employed, and that at least 152 million are in forced child labor, according to basic facts about child labor published by the Child Labor Coalition.”[1]

A significant proportion, up to 25%, of hazardous child labor is carried out by children under the age of 12. Nearly half of all victims of forced child labor, ranging from ages 5 to 11, are affected by this grave issue. The regions of Africa and Asia-Pacific bear the burden of over 134 million children engaged in forced labor, making it a distressing reality in these areas, similar to the child labor history in America.

A Review of the Definitions:

It would be a mistake to assume that only work as a bonded laborer, a slave, or a victim of human trafficking are the only forms of child labor. Not all child labor is forced, nor is it all hazardous. However, historically and currently, a large percentage of child labor is considered hazardous.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) currently estimates that 72 million children in Africa and another 62 million in Asia and the Pacific are engaged in some form of child labor, including child labor in supply chains.[2] Additionally, 73 million children, aged 5–17, work in dangerous conditions in various sectors, including agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing, as well as in hotels, bars, restaurants, markets, and domestic service in both industrialized and developing countries.[3] Shockingly, around 22,000 children are killed at work every year.[4]

Child labor, as described by the ILO, refers to work that robs children of their childhood, potential, and dignity, while also posing risks to their physical and mental growth.[5] Advocates for the elimination of child labor often decry the plight of working children when that work deprives them of the opportunity to attend school on a regular basis.

The definition of hazardous child labor is only slightly different from that of the more generic child labor. Work is classified as hazardous when it has the potential, either due to its inherent nature or the conditions under which it is performed, to jeopardize the well-being, safety, or ethical values of children. Working long hours, at night, in confined spaces, around dangerous equipment, or exposed to toxic substances are a few circumstances considered dangerous.[6]

Child Labor as It Exists Now in Some Countries:

In Burkina Faso, 42 percent of children do not attend school because they are working. Despite the country adopting a National Strategy to End the Worst Forms of Child Labor, high rates of child labor have not significantly decreased over the past few years.[7]

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates that 12 million of its country’s children are working, with an unnumbered majority in forced domestic servitude. Legislation was passed in August 2020 to make the domestic servitude of children illegal, yet its true impact remains to be measured. Tragic incidents of abuse and deaths among domestic child laborers, such as the beating of 16-year-old Uzma Bibi, the abuse of 10-year-old Tayyaba Quein, and the abuse and death of 8-year-old Zohra Shah, were the driving force behind this legislation.[8]

In Jamaica, children are often seen selling merchandise, washing car windshields, and begging for money.[9] In Argentina, individuals engage in illegal child labor in textile mills, mining, construction, or farming.[10] In Madagascar, an estimated 10,000 children work deep underground in mica mines, undertaking arduous tasks using razor-sharp tools.[11] An article dated January 24, 2021, by The Arab News reported that at least 76,000 children in Jordan were working, with the number believed to be growing due to a significant increase in the poverty rate and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.[12]

Child labor continues to haunt the world, its chains restraining the future of millions of children. To eliminate this pervasive problem, it is crucial that we raise awareness, advocate for change, and support organizations dedicated to the eradication of child labor. The International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor serves as a reminder of our responsibility to protect the rights, well-being, and future of every child. Let us strive for a world where childhood is cherished, where education triumphs over exploitation, and where the innocent are shielded from the burden of labor.

Join GFA World in sponsoring a child and witness the incredible transformation that unfolds. You can be a part of breaking the relentless cycle of poverty and provide hope and help to children trapped in destitution. Your sponsorship goes beyond individual support; it extends to the entire community, bringing tangible expressions of God’s love to those in need. Through initiatives like providing food, clean water, healthcare, education, and more, we create an environment where children can thrive and unlock their full potential. Together, let us make a lasting impact and create a future where every child has the opportunity to grow, learn, and dream, unburdened by the chains of exploitation.

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[1] Maki, Reid “10 Basic Facts about Child Labor Globally” Child Labor Coalition http://stopchildlabor.org/?p=4504/. July 16, 2018.
[2] International Labor Association (ILO) Press release, 2021: International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor. January 15, 2021.
[3] International Labour Organization. 2021. “2021: International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.” Www.ilo.org. January 15, 2021. https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_766351/lang–en/index.htm.
[4] Ibid.
[5] International Labour Organization. 2022. “What Is Child Labour (IPEC).” Ilo.org. International Labour Organization. 2022. https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm.
[6] Ibid.
[7] “The Challenges for Children in Burkina Faso.” 2021. The Borgen Project. January 7, 2021. https://borgenproject.org/children-in-burkina-faso/.
[8] Yuki. 2021. “Child Poverty in Argentina: A Crisis That Needs Action.” The Borgen Project. January 12, 2021. https://borgenproject.org/child-poverty-in-argentina/.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] “US Department of Labor Awards $4.5M in Grants to Reduce Child Labor in Madagascar’s Mica-Producing Communities.” n.d. DOL. https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/ilab/ilab20210209.
[12] “Coronavirus Pandemic Forces Jordanian Children into Labor Market.” 2021. Arab News. January 24, 2021. https://www.arabnews.com/node/1797361/middle-east.