Effects of Child Labor

The effects of child labor are vast and often have lifelong impacts. When a child is forced to work instead of going to school, they are deprived of more than just education.

Here are some negative effects of child labor:

Stunted Development

While childhood is a formative time of development, this development is often stunted for those in child labor. Cognitive development—their ability to learn, explore and reason—is hindered as well as relational development. When kids are in school, they learn to interact with their peers and develop friendships. When children are put in the workforce, this relational development often does not happen. Many of the children involved in child labor were born into poverty and have no way of escaping to a better life. They are not qualified or equipped for other jobs. Therefore, the poverty cycle continues.

Physical Injury

Children in labor industries are often seriously injured or they do not correctly develop physically. The International Labor Organization estimates there are 2.78 million work-related deaths annually and 374 million injuries and illnesses each year. According to ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, “Children and young workers are at greater risk and suffer disproportionately and with longer-lasting consequences.”1 The World Bank agrees. They estimate that 10 percent of all child labor-related injuries are crushing accidents, amputations and fractures.2 Children who work in agriculture often encounter pesticides and other chemicals that cause lasting harm to them as children or later in life. Manufacturing jobs often endanger children with toxic substances and solvents.


Children involved in child labor are at risk of being trafficked, especially if they are walking long distances for work or taking dangerous routes. UNICEF states, “Children on the move risk being forced into work or even trafficked – subjected to violence, abuse and other human rights violations.”3 The 30 million children who work outside of the country of their birth are at serious risk of trafficking, either for sexual exploitation or as a wartime soldier.

When considering the causes and effects of child labor, it is essential to remember real children are being impacted.

Sima, for example, is an 11-year-old girl who works in the brick kilns, and has done so for five years already. She’s not alone. The ILO estimates that 56 percent of brick makers in Afghanistan are children, and they often start working at age five. Sima works 13 hours per day, six days a week. This little girl has never attended school. She is illiterate and will probably grow up not knowing how to read or write even as an adult.

“Child laborers in brick kilns have a high risk of developing health problems like as musculo-skeletal issues, poor bone development and early-onset arthritis,” the ILO reports.4 The health problems are tremendous, but we don’t want to diminish the loss of education and hope that these children have had ripped away from them.

James, at the age of 6, was sent to Ghana with five other children to work in the fishing industry. Of those six kids, only three survived. They would begin work at 3:00 AM and work until 8:00 PM. James said:

“I was usually fed once a day and would regularly contract painful diseases which were never treated as I was denied access to medical care. If I asked for even the smallest concession from my boss, I was beaten. Despite all my hard work, I was often not allowed to sleep because I had to take care of all the other tasks, such as mending nets and cleaning fish.”5

James was 13 years old when he escaped and found his way home. He enrolled in school, even though he didn’t know how to write. He was at a considerable disadvantage, but with a lot of work, he did well in school and attended the University of Ghana. He later took a job as a banker and has a passion for helping kids stuck in child slavery. He wants to help kids struggling with the physical and emotional effects of child labor.

Since 1979, GFA World has had a singular focus: “To take the love of Christ to people who have never heard His name before.”6 Poverty is at the root of child labor, so much of our ministry revolves around poverty alleviation. When families are given relief from the financial pressure weighing on them, they are more likely to keep their children in school. For example, our child sponsorship program is designed to provide positive motivation for staying in school.

Community wide solutions provide children and their families with essentials such as nutritious food, access to clean water, school supplies, educational support and so on. Parents are helped with literacy, vocational training, work supplies, income generating farm animals and other helpful items. These things help create new opportunities for families to earn income. We’re committed to helping families so they do not have to make the difficult choice to send their children into the workforce.

1 Schein, Lisa. “Half the World’s 152 Million Child Laborers Do Hazardous Work.” Voice of America. https://www.voanews.com/a/half-the-world-s-152-million-child-laborers-do-hazardous-work/4432362.html. June 10, 2018.
2 Graitcer, Philip L. and Lerer, Leonard B. “Child Labor and Health: Quantifying the Global Health Impacts of Child Labor.” World Bank. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/763941468764713568/pdf/multi-page.pdf. November 1998.
3 https://www.unicef.org/protection/child-labour
4 “Buried in Bricks.” The International Labor Organization. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—asia/—ro-bangkok/documents/publication/wcms_172671.pdf. 2011.
5 James Annan. End Slavery Now. https://www.endslaverynow.org/blog/articles/james-annan. January 5, 2015.
6 KP Yohannan Shares a Special 40th Anniversary Message. Gospel for Asia. https://www.gfa.org/40-years/videos/. April 2019.