Girl in Bangladesh sews in a room, turning her face to the camera

Ending child labour in 2021

How World Vision is working to stop child labour and slavery

What is child labour?

The United Nations (UN) has declared 2021 the international year for the elimination of child labour. The recognised child labour definition is dangerous, often exploitative work that exceeds a reasonable number of hours a day and interferes with a child’s education. It deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity. The worst forms of child labour include illicit activities like child slavery, trafficking, sexual exploitation and hazardous work that put children at risk of death, injury or disease.

World Vision centres children in labour protection work: empowering children to know their rights, helping them and their families into better jobs, vocational training or education, and working with parents and communities to see that children's futures are not stolen by labour exploitation.

Another important factor in child slavery and labour protection is advocacy - which is where your voice is particularly powerful. We demand that law enforcement and justice systems investigate and prosecute those who exploit children, and pressure and support private sector organisations to strengthen their supply chains to stop using child labour.

How we're tackling child labour:

You can help a child for life and end child labour today.

It is estimated that young people who have to work full-time or part-time instead of going to school increase their likelihood of being poor in later life by as much as 30%. Support World Vision to tackle the root causes and keep children in school and out of labour.

Child labour facts

Child slavery and labour are not small problems. 152 million children worldwide are victims of child slavery and labour, and disasters such as COVID-19 only make the problem worse. In Asia, as many as 8 million children are working, begging, or marrying because the pandemic has taken their parents’ jobs, and they have to resort to using their children to earn money to survive or pay off debts.

With your support, we work towards the elimination of child labour, to help families break this cycle of poverty. We advocate for children’s rights, support families financially and ensure that children stay in education - tackling the roots of the problem.

Protect children like Divine today. Empower them tomorrow.

Support World Vision’s work to help boys and girls in the world’s most dangerous places.

Together we can end child labour

More about our work to end child labour

  • All over the world, children are being exploited through child slavery and labour. The definition of child labour is “the exploitative employment of children in an industry or business that deprives them of their childhood, putting them in danger of physical, or mental harm”. This dangerous work at best has negative consequences for their schooling, physical and mental health, and long-term development, at worst includes slavery, trafficking, sexual exploitation, and hazardous work that put children at risk of death, injury or disease. Girls are forced into marriage and boys into armed conflict.

    Not all children who work are being exploited by child labour. Only when children are of an appropriate age for the task, receive appropriate pay and work in safe environments, can they be considered “willing participants in work.” These children can balance work with school and play so they can experience true fullness of life, and they develop the necessary skills to transition into adulthood.

    Exploited children in the labour force are often deprived of these rights and opportunities, working in unfair circumstances, often forced to work in places with poor health and safety, that hinder their development rather than stimulate it. This exploitation is what we work to tackle.

  • During conflicts or natural disasters, families may have to flee from their homes and, in extreme circumstances, resort to using their children as a way of earning money to survive. If families are extremely poor or experience an unexpected loss of a breadwinner, children can be called upon to help support the family.

    When families are unable to break this cycle of poverty, girls and boys might not get access to education at all, or they may be forced to drop out. Work can be seen as a better use of their time - or the only way to help to support their families to provide food or pay off debts.

    Child labourers are particularly vulnerable to abuse, and their families are often trapped in a cycle of poverty. Children can be forced to work under threat of violence or death, or they can fall ill and get injured.

  • Child labour is destructive and debilitating - it is estimated that children who have to work instead of going to school increase their likelihood of being poor in later life by as much as 30%. Children can also be forced to work in dangerous conditions, affecting both their physical and mental wellbeing.

    Such jobs include:

    Mining - With a constant risk of major injury or death, mining is extremely dangerous. Many view it as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Each day children risk their lives without any other choice.

    Working in factories - Exposed to a factory environment with no health and safety regulations, children are forced to work in unhealthy atmospheres with toxic air, heavy machinery and hazardous chemicals.

    Illegal trading - Using children to sell illegal goods on the streets, including drug-related products to gangs, exposes them to things they shouldn’t see or know about at such a young and crucial age.

    There are also cases where children have worked in agriculture or in domestic work, seeing their school attendance suffer as a result of working long hours.

  • Any time a child is engaged in child labour, it violates their rights: they are without a voice and their chance for a bright future slips away. However, in its worst forms, child labour can involve children being enslaved, exposed to dangerous circumstances and sometimes separated from their families.

    These can include:
    Child slavery: Today, an estimated 5 million children are trapped in modern slavery across the globe – including in the UK. Child slavery happens when a child is exploited, owned or coerced into providing labour for another person’s gain. Children are kept against their will and unable to leave.

    Child trafficking: When children are manipulated or forced to leave their homes and are relocated or transported to a life of exploitation, forced to work or sold on, that’s child trafficking. Children in these circumstances are frequently subject to sexual and emotional abuse.

    Debt bondage: This refers to children being exchanged to help pay off outstanding debts. Families who live in extreme poverty may resort to this desperate action and their child is then forced to work to help clear the debt.

  • Children are engaged in child labour around the world, but some practices are more common in certain places.

    Mining is particularly common in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, where children work long hours in gold mines, without clean water.

    Child labour in factories is typically seen in countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia, where children are made to work in clothing factories, producing garments.

    Other instances occur in the tobacco industry, where companies have been associated with using labour in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malawi, the USA and Zimbabwe.

    World Vision is currently working in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic with children caught up in armed groups, in harmful agricultural practices, in sexual exploitation and in the mining of minerals.