Child Labor Then and Now

How to Stop Child Labor and its Potential Existence in the Future

There is no place for child labor in society,” says International Labor Organization Director-General, Guy Ryder.[1] So, how do you stop child labor and what does the elimination of child labor scorecard look like?

Consider that the ILO has been working for the abolition of child labor for an entire century, yet 218 million children are still laborers around the globe.

David Batstone of the Not for Sale Campaign, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the exploitation of children, summed up global progress in reducing child labor, admitting, “We haven’t solved anything.”[2]

Unfortunately, Batstone is correct. Studies continue to come to a common understanding that child labor is not merely a social or human rights issue. Those are labels put on what is obviously and primarily an economic issue.

Child Labor in Supply Chains

Actions are now being taken to address child labor as a supply chain matter for purveyors of consumer and commercial products. Unfortunately, American companies have contributed to the proliferation of child labor by outsourcing products and components to businesses in emerging economies. The American companies are not to blame for whom their subcontractors employ. They can, however, attempt to ensure that subcontractors do not employ children.

Highly successful American-based companies have learned that actively monitoring manufacturing partners “for violations of labor, environmental, and safety” can hurt their own business severely. Withholding, shifting or canceling orders with businesses that employ child labor create irresolvable delays and higher costs.[3]

Human Rights Watch reported in July 2020 that the ministers of the European Union have found that attempts to pass legislation to eliminate child labor are faring just as poorly as expecting voluntary cooperation from businesses. They have learned that it is one thing to expect respect for children’s rights as a matter of company policy and corporate human rights due diligence, and quite another thing to gain it.[4]

COVID-19 and Other Disasters

Th COVID-19 pandemic has forced more children into the workforce. The one sure impact from pandemics, plagues, epidemics, natural disasters or military conflicts is poverty. Poverty always forces families to face the ultimate existential question: “How shall we survive?” The answer is to have “all hands on deck.”

Reports like this one should provide a modicum of hope. Nonetheless, there are three truths:

  1. Child labor primarily exists in places where poverty is prevalent.
  2. Progress toward the elimination of child labor is unbearably slow.
  3. Even the Bible declares: “The poor you shall always have with you.”

The process of deduction leads to the conclusion that there will likely be instances of child labor for as long as this current world economic system remains. However, even though the Scriptures say that poverty will always be an issue, they also say people can help.[5]

The point that is often missed is this: we will always have opportunities to help families faced with poverty.

The question, then, is, “Do you want to help?” Each of us can do something for someone, either by showing real love and concern to the poorest around us, or by supporting those who actively do with our prayers and contributions.

GFA World and a multitude of like-minded non-profits and faith-based organizations are at work around the clock in places where poverty and child labor rob families and their children of joy in their lives and hope for the future. We can help non-profits like these by praying for and funding teams of dedicated helpers who are demonstrating God’s love by providing aid to families and communities who are looking for hope to fight this problem.

Learn more about GFA World’s tireless efforts to transform poverty-stricken villages, feed and educate families, and to eliminate a dependence on child labor. Visit GFA World for more information.

Learn more about child labor then and now

[1] ILO. Press Release: International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor.–en/index.htm. January 15,2021.
[2] Not for Sale Campaign. About Us. Accessed January 2021.
[3] Ben Lovejoy. 9TO5Mac. Apple reluctant to ban suppliers guilty of labor violations; can take years to do so. December 31, 2020.
[4] Human Rights Watch. EU Parliament Vote Critical to Hold Companies to Account.
[5] Mark 14:7