What is Child Labor

Child labor is a form of labor that involves the exploitation of child and adolescent labor. In addition to generating various social problems, it directly affects those involved.

Photo of kids working

Photo of kids working

Causes of Child Labor

  • Poverty and low income
  • Low parental education
  • Large amount of children
  • Poor quality of education
  • Search for cheap labor
  • Lack of manpower and supervision

Consequences of Child Labor

  • Affects child and / or adolescent development
  • The individual loses childhood
  • Generates several social issues
  • Causes illness and psychological problems
  • Induces poor performance and dropout
  • Causes unpreparedness for the job market

Types of Child Labor

There are several ways to exploit child labor, the most common being work in:

  • Homestay
  • Field (sites and farms)
  • Mines, sugarcane fields and factories
  • Drug trafficking
  • Child prostitution and pornography
  • Trafficking in persons

Many of these can be compared to slave labor, where conditions are extremely inappropriate and precarious and where labor is often forced.

It is noteworthy that domestic child labor is also an aggravating factor. Many children, especially girls, are forced to work at home for hours per day.

According to data from the Report Brazil Free of Child Labor (2013) of the NGO Repórter Brasil, it is estimated that about 258 thousand children and adolescents between 10 and 17 years old work in family homes. Of this number, 94% are female.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about 15.5 million people under the age of 18 are engaged in domestic activities.

There are also cases of sexual abuse by the family itself. In many countries around the world, many children are forced into prostitution early on.


Every country in the world has legislation that determines the minimum age to enter the labor market. The laws also set out what is considered to be exploitation of child labor.

Generally, from 16 years old the person is able to work. However, in several countries, considered less favored, the law allows working from the age of 14.

According to Article 7 of International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 138:

National legislation may permit the employment or work of persons from thirteen to fifteen years of age in light work, provided that they: (
a) are not liable to harm the health or development of such minors; and
(b) are not of such a nature as to impair their attendance at school, their participation in vocational guidance or training programs approved by the competent authority, or the benefit of the education they receive.

In Brazil, child labor is considered illegal for children and adolescents between 5 and 13 years old. From 14, work is legalized if the person is in the condition of apprentice.

Between the ages of 16 and 18, Brazilian law permits work activities, provided that they are performed between 06h and 22h.

Child Labor in Brazil

One of the major social problems affecting our country is child labor. According to PNAD statistics (2007), 1.2 million children are working in the age group of 5 to 13 years.

Unfortunately, these data show the stark reality of the country. It is common to see in the streets several children working at traffic lights, trains, etc.

They stop attending school for reasons that are associated with various social problems, such as family breakdown, lack of income, dropout, among others.

Many of them work in the field and are not paid early on. In such cases, enforcement becomes a difficult task.

Currently, several programs are working to improve this scenario, including the Peti (Child Labor Eradication Program).

In Brazil, the Northeast is the region that presents the most child labor exploitation. About 50% work on farms and sites. It is worth noting that black children are the biggest target of child labor in the country.

Child Labor in the World

UNICEF ( United Nations Children’s Fund ) is a body responsible for defending the rights of children worldwide.

This body was founded in 1946 and has since contributed to actions that include children’s development and rights.

According to the United Nations (UN), there are currently more than 7 billion children in the world who are included in the list of child labor.

In the world, the practice of using child labor is more common in underdeveloped countries, especially the African, American and Asian continents.