Child Labor

GFA World’s Work Against Child Labor

Child labor remains a pervasive issue worldwide, despite the perception that it is outdated, particularly in countries like the United States and other developed nations. Globally, a staggering 160 million children are currently engaged in labor today.[1] Child labor, as defined by the International Labour Organization, involves work that deprives children of their rightful childhood, stunts their potential and dignity, and poses risks to their physical and mental development.[2]

It is disheartening to note that almost half of the children trapped in child labor today, approximately 79 million, are involved in hazardous occupations. While this problem predominantly affects 15–17-year-olds, it is alarming that a significant portion, roughly a quarter, involves children under the age of 12.[3] These distressing statistics underscore the substantial number of children who are unable to attend school regularly or who have dropped out entirely due to their labor obligations.

The occurrence of children being forced into labor is most frequent in several Asian and African countries. In Pakistan, nearly 13 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 are laborers, and about three-quarters of those kids are involved in the agricultural sector. Nigeria, suffering from widespread poverty, has more than 15 million child laborers under the age of 14 working as domestic help, shoe shiners, miners, construction workers, car washers, etc.[4] One country in South Asia has more than 33 million children working in mines, farms, or garment factories. Even as that country develops, the number of child workers has grown, especially in cities where the kids move for work. The south Asian country of Bangladesh is among the worst offenders for child workers, though their informal employment is hard to keep track of and there are laws in place against it.[5]

These statistics are already very troubling, but these estimates are likely lower than actual figures as they only report children living in family homes. Orphaned children or kids living on the streets, some of the most susceptible to becoming laborers, go undetected and uncounted by censuses.[6]

Is child labor illegal? Technically, yes. The United Nations is taking strides to end the practice for good, but it is not going down without a fight. Target 8.7 in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals states that countries need to take “immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour … and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”[7]

According to this goal, child labor around the world should be completely eradicated in just a few years. However, enforcing this endeavor and local laws against child labor takes a lot of effort and manpower that many countries just don’t have. To meet such expansive goals, companies that rely on child workers need to stop exploiting them and find alternative means of production, but that takes time and money that some businesses are unwilling to spend. For example, leading chocolate company Godiva is not fully on board with taking an active role in reducing the use of child laborers, so it is lagging behind other companies in the effort.[8] And Godiva is not the only company with such hesitancy to change their production methods.

But much is being done to help reduce child labor. GFA World is one organization working to help child laborers and their families. On June 12, 2019—World Day Against Child Labor—GFA missionaries held a special program for families employed in a brick factory. The hours in a brick factory are long, the work is arduous, and children often work alongside their parents, making 1,500 bricks a day. The GFA missionaries distributed school supplies and they shared with the parents about the importance of education and the negative effects of labor on their children. School opens new opportunities for children and helps them break the cycle of poverty.[9]

One parent said, “I thank you for making us aware of the ill-effects of child labor. Now we want our children to study and have a bright future.”[10]

GFA World also has a child sponsorship program, which offers the opportunity for children to get a free education, supplies and nutritious food. Such assistance can help parents to remove their children from child labor since these major needs are now being met and the families no longer need the extra income so desperately.

Sponsorship is a ray of hope for these kids. Nutritious food prevent hunger. Access to clean water and healthcare prevent and treat illnesses. Education empowers them to attain better futures. Enrolled children also experience opportunities for recreational activities and community service.[11]

The education of the parents, like those in the brick factory, also shows them how important it is to provide a better life for their kids. GFA’s input into these young lives can alter their futures, breaking the poverty cycle.

These sponsorships make a world of difference, and it only takes $35 a month. Consider joining this effort by sponsoring a child to play a small part in ending the labor of children.

Learn more about hope for children

[1] International Labour Organization. 2021. “Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020, Trends and the Road Forward.” June 10, 2021.–en/index.htm.
[2] “What is Child Labour?” International Labour Organization. Accessed October 20, 2022.–en/index.htm.
[3] International Labour Organization. 2021. “Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020, Trends and the Road Forward.” June 10, 2021.–en/index.htm.
[4] Sen Nag, Oishimaya. “Worst Countries for Child Labor.” World Atlas. January 15, 2019.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Gutheil, Lou. “Child Labor: Not Gone, But Forgotten.” GFA World. July 9, 2019.
[7] “#Envision2030 Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.” United Nations. Accessed October 20, 2022.
[8] Gearhart, Judy. “Commit to Ending Child Labor Now!” International Labor Rights Forum. June 12, 2018.
[9] “Brick Factory Child Laborers Given School Supplies.” GFA World. August 22, 2019.
[10] Ibid.
[11] “Sponsor a Child with GFA World.” GFA World. Accessed October 22, 2022.