Child labour

What is child labour?

Child labour is work done by children under the age of 15 that is physically and mentally harmful, and interferes with their education, and social or psychological development.

Victims of child labour mostly live in third world countries and work in damaging and hazardous conditions like forestry, explosives manufacturing and mining. Others will work as domestic servants in homes, or in plantations. They generally work 12 hour days or longer.

Why does child labour occur?

Child Labour occurs for a number of reasons, the main being poverty. When families barely make enough to survive, children work to help themselves and their families cope. Child Labour also stems from big companies wanting to increase their profits by underpaying children.

In many countries where child labour exists, there are no laws enforced to protect children. Some of these countries also ban trade unions so there is no one to protect the rights of workers.

What can we do about child labour?

There are many approaches to how we can reduce child labour, but a simple solution does not exist. Here are some ideas:

Consumers can stop buying products that are made using child labour. You should check the products you buy and find out where and how they are made (ask the shop assistant if you’re not sure.)

Australian unions raise awareness of child labour issues through their involvement with the Australian Child Labour Network and APHEDA – Union Aid Abroad.

  • The global number of children in child labour has declined by one third between 2000 and 2013, from 246 million to 168 million children. More than half of them, 85 million, are in hazardous work (down from 171 million in 2000).
  • Asia and the Pacific still has the largest numbers (almost 78 million or 9.3% of child population), but Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour (59 million, over 21%).
  • Agriculture remains by far the most important sector where child labourers can be found (98 million, or 59%), but the problems are not negligible in services (54 million) and industry (12 million) – mostly in the informal economy.
  • Child labour among girls fell by 40% since 2000, compared to 25% for boys.
  • “We are moving in the right direction but progress is still too slow. If we are serious about ending the scourge of child labour in the foreseeable future, we need a substantial stepping-up of efforts at all levels. There are 168 million good reasons to do so,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder
Unions through APHEDA are working to get rid of child labour


Relevant Resources

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Union structure
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