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Child Labor
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The Solidarity Center supports trade unions around the world in their efforts to eliminate child labor.

Many children work in bonded labor in Pakistan brick kilns. Photo: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Some 168 million children are not in school today because they are forced to work. Children as young as five years old are part of the global workforce. In factories and in fields, children work up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. Agriculture, mining, fishing, seafood processing, manufacturing, hospitality, domestic work and street vending are a few of the many sectors where child labor is rampant.

Child labor is one of the worst forms of exploitation. Child workers are deprived of education, forced to work in dangerous situations, beaten and sexually abused and crippled by work-related illnesses and injuries. Children are sold or indentured to employers who pay impoverished families for the use of their children. An ensuing cycle of poverty pushes adults from their jobs and drives down wages worldwide.

Although most countries have laws against child labor, and it is banned by officially recognized conventions (agreements) between nations and the United Nations and the International Labor Organization (ILO), child labor exists globally. Child labor is most common in workplaces and sectors where there are no unions and where other worker rights violations, such as pay inequity, discrimination, and lack of health and safety measures, are widespread.

The Solidarity Center and our partners around the world are exposing the problem of child labor, pushing for policies that prepare young people for the workplace, and promoting more effective national action plans to curb this intolerable abuse of worker rights and human rights. Through Solidarity Center programs, more kids are staying in school—while their parents earn decent wages so their children don't have to work.

The Solidarity Center believes that at the heart of an effective anti-child labor strategy is the understanding that government must be willing to safeguard rights that allow individuals, unions and other civil society actors to promote decent work, have access to education and participate in democratic advocacy. The Solidarity Center’s comprehensive strategy for combating child labor strongly focuses on promoting decent work for adults as a long-term sustainable way to improve the quality of life for families, address the underlying economic root causes of child labor, and empower entire communities.

Find out more about the role of unions in eradicating child labor.


Briefing: Decent Work for Adults Can Reduce Child Labor. April 9, 2014—Reducing and eliminating child labor requires a focus on decent work for adults, said Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau, speaking yesterday on Capitol Hill.

New Resource Manual: Tackling Child Domestic Labor. March 21, 2014—The advocacy group, Global March Against Child Labor, just published a free new resource manual to help organizations take action against child domestic labor and protect young domestic workers of legal working age.

113 Nations Make Progress in Ending Worst Forms of Child Labor. October 1, 2013—The 12th annual Department of Labor report, “2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor,” released yesterday, chronicles the progress of 143 governments in combatting the worst forms of child labor, which includes working in agriculture like Ethel.

ILO: Child Labor Declines, Worst Forms Will Remain by 2016. September 23, 2013—The number of child laborers has declined by one-third globally, from 246 million in 2000 to 168 million in 2012, according to an International Labor Organization (ILO) report released today.

World Day Against Child Labor: A Focus on Pakistan’s Brick Kilns. June 12, 2013—Many children in Pakistan work as bonded laborers in dangerous brick kilns, shaping bricks from wet clay, facing the searing heat from a kiln’s open fire and carrying stacks of finished bricks on their heads.

Pakistan: Nearly 6 Million Children under 10 Are Child Laborers. June 12, 2012—Children across Pakistan are child laborers, reports the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), a longtime Solidarity Center partner. To eradicate the most extreme forms of child labor in Pakistan, SPARC is conducting a national campaign during the week of June 11–16.

World Day against Child Labor Marks 10th Anniversary. June 12, 2012—More than 215 million children worldwide are involved in child labor, reports the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Unions Fight Child Labor in Palestine. June 12, 2012—By raising awareness of this humanitarian crisis and pushing for better laws, the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) is part of the fight to end child labor and make sure children can stay in school.

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