What Is a Sweatshop? Why Are Children at Risk for Becoming Sweatshop Kids?

A sweatshop “is a crowded workplace with very poor, socially unacceptable or illegal working conditions. Some illegal working conditions include poor ventilation, little to no breaks, inadequate workspace, insufficient lighting, or uncomfortably high temperatures. The work may be difficult, tiresome, dangerous, climatically challenging or underpaid.”1 These workplaces are typically clothing factories. Most sweatshop workers are women or children, also called sweatshop kids.

Why do children work in sweatshops?


  • Poverty — Families stuck in generational or abject poverty do not have many options. The financial strain to feed, educate and care for their children can be too much for many families. Many families do not have a choice; they need their children to work. Child laborers bring vital income to families in desperate circumstances to provide for food or school tuition. Some children join their families working in fields or factories, but others are kidnapped and enslaved or sold into slavery by their families.
  • Profit — Many employers maximize their profit by hiring low-cost labor. Children are the least expensive employees to pay because employers can manipulate them. Children do not have the power or the knowledge to advocate for themselves or bargain for better working conditions. Many employers will not properly pay, feed or house their child laborers to reduce costs.

Child labor often develops from the perfect storm: families in dire financial need and employers looking for vulnerable, low-cost workers.

What can you do to help? GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program helps protect children from child labor in Asia and Africa. For $35 a month, you can help a child, their family and their community break the cycle of poverty. GFA world works with the leaders of the local community to provide community-wide solutions to help children and their families, which may include opportunities for education, medical care, protection against malnutrition, clean water and more. When children can attend school with the proper supplies, food and resources, families do not need to resort to child labor.

Will you join us in helping a child today?

Learn more about child labor definition

1 “Sweatshop.” Wikipedia. Accessed January 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweatshop
* Cover Photo by Zoriah, Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)