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CHILD LABOR compiled by Can Erbil Summer 2007. DEFINITIONS.

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Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007


compiled by Can Erbil

Summer 2007

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007


Child work: Children’s participation in economic activity - that does not negatively affect their health and development or interfere with education, can be positive.  Work that does not interfere with education (light work)  is permitted from the age of 12 years under the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 138.

Child labor: This is more narrowly defined and refers to children working in contravention of the above standards.  This means all children below 12 years of age working in any economic activities, those aged 12 to 14 years engaged in  harmful work, and all children engaged in the worst forms of child labor.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007


An estimated 246 million children are engaged in child labor. Of those, almost three-quarters (171 million) work in hazardous situations or conditions, such as working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture or working with dangerous machinery. They are everywhere but invisible, toiling as domestic servants in homes, laboring behind the walls of workshops, hidden from view in plantations.

Millions of girls work as domestic servants and unpaid household help and are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Millions of others work under horrific circumstances. They may be trafficked (1.2 million), forced into debt bondage or other forms of slavery (5.7 million), into prostitution and pornography (1.8 million), into participating in armed conflict (0.3 million) or other illicit activities (0.6 million).  However, the vast majority of child laborers – 70 per cent or more – work in agriculture.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

Main Types of Child Labor

• The main and most common is parent-controlled child labor, which include

work in the child’s own household, work with the family and or in the family

business and work for an employer through the parents’ employment relationship.

• The next most common group includes children working directly for someone

not a member of the their own household, i.e. more traditional employment

relationships, undertaken by children living in their parental household.

• The third group contains children who have moved away or have been taken

away from their parental household, or whose parents are dead, and children

who have not been integrated into other households with adult heads or are being

exploited through such new household relations.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

Main Types of Child Labor

  • Bonded Child LaborBonded labor takes place when a family receives an advance payment (sometimes as little as U.S. $15) to hand a child-boy or girl-over to an employer.

  • In most cases the child cannot work off the debt, nor can the family raise enough money to buy the child back.

  • The workplace is often structured so that "expenses" and/or "interest" are deducted from a child's earnings in such amounts that it is almost impossible for a child to repay the debt.

  • In some cases, the labor is generational-that is, a child's grandfather or great-grandfather was promised to an employer many years earlier, with the understanding that each generation would provide the employer with a new worker-often with no pay at all.

  • Bonded labor is outlawed by the 1956 U.N. Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery.

  • Millions of children work as bonded child laborers in countries around the world; the full extent of the problem has yet to be shown. Millions work in India alone, as documented in the Human Rights Watch 2003 report, Small Change: Bonded Child Labor in India's Silk Industry, and 1996 report, The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labor in India.

  • Many bonded children are subjected to severe physical abuse, as in a case cited in the July 1995 Human Rights Watch report, Contemporary Forms of Slavery in Pakistan.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

Regional Child Labor Estimates

  • The Asian and Pacific regions harbour the largest number of child workers in the five to 14 age group, 127.3 million in total. (19 per cent of children work in the region.)

  • Sub-Saharan Africa has an estimated 48 million child workers. Almost one child in three (29 per cent) below the age of 15 works.

  • Latin America and the Caribbean have approximately 17.4 million child workers. (16 per cent of children work in the region).

  • 15% of children work in the Middle East and North Africa.

  • Approximately 2.5 million children are working in industrialized and transition economies.   

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

Brief History of Child Labor Regulations

Since the first regulations in Switzerland and the disclosure of the working

conditions of children in British mines in the early nineteenth century, the issue

has emerged at various times at national and international levels. Particularly during

the days of liberal trade regimes and the birth of the labor movement in Europe

in the last part of the nineteenth century, child labor was in the forefront of

the international labor debates. In 1890 Germany called the first international

conference on child labor. These efforts led to the formation of the ILO in 1919

and the adoption of the first child labor convention (ILO C5).

A number of ILO conventions followed and in 1973 a general labor market

minimum standard was adopted (ILO C138). The age limits set forth in this Convention

still form the basis for national and international legislation in the area. However all the relevant ILO conventions up to and including Convention 138 only deal with child labor in relation to the labor market.

In 1989, the fight against child labor entered into a new context when the UN

Convention for the Rights of the Child was drawn up. Here child labor was defined

not according to the activity but according to the effect of the activity on the

child. This laid the ground for a renewed understanding of child labor and a

renewed fight against it. This new approach was influential in the adoption by the

ILO of Convention 182 in 1999.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

Brief History of Child Labor Regulations

Today we can say that the three conventions:

  • The ILO Convention 138,

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and

  • The ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor,

    form the basis for the international definition of child labor.

    ILO Minimum Age Convention (1973, 138), has been ratified by 116 countries, the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989) has been ratified by 191 countries, and the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention (1999, 182), has been ratified by 117 countries.

    The conditions set forth in the three conventions are more specifically that

    the work should not be hazardous or harmful to the child’s health or physical,

    mental, moral or social development. In addition, for children up to the minimum

    age for employment, the work or activity should not interfere with the child’s education.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

Economics of child labor

Several studies shows that economically active children represent a decreasing

proportion of the total labor force as GDP per capita increases.

The World Bank (1998) reported that the labor force participation rate of children aged 10 to 14 years is highest, 30–60%, in countries with per capita income of $500 or less (at 1987 prices). But it declines quite rapidly, to 10–30%, in countries with per capita

incomes of between $500 and $1,000. This negative relationship between income

and child labor becomes less marked in the more affluent developing countries

in the $1,000 to $4,000 income ranges.

Among the studies trying to estimate the effects of changes in income:

  • Levy (1995) found that in Egypt a 1% increase in adult female wages reduced children’s working hours in the labor market by 2.7% for children aged 6–11 years and by 1.5% for those aged 12–14 years. Simultaneously it increased schooling hours by 2.8% and 0.8%, respectively.

  • Rosenzweig and Everson (1977) found that in India a 1% increase in adult male wages reduced female children’s hours of labor market work by 1.2%, while a 1% increase in adult female wages caused a decline in female children’s hours of labor market work of 1.4%.

  • Ray (1998) found the same connection between adult wages and children’s participation in the labor market in Peru. There a 1% increase in adult male wages led to a 1% decrease in the probability of children engaging in labor activity.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

Does Child Labor Decline with Improving Economic Status?by Edmonds (2003)

  • From 1993 to 1997, GDP per capita in Vietnam grew by between 6 and 7 percent annually. Child labor declined by 28 percent over this period.

  • Edmonds investigates the relationship between improvements in per capita expenditure and child labor with a panel dataset of Vietnamese households that spans this episode of growth.

  • He finds that improvements in per capita expenditure can explain 80 percent of the decline in child labor that occurs in households whose expenditures improve enough to move out of poverty.

  • Significant role for economic growth in the decline of child labor.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

"Why Should We Care About Child Labor? The Education, Labor Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor,"

by Kathleen Beegle, Rajeev Dehejia and  Roberta Gatti

  • From age 30 onward the forgone earnings attributable to lost schooling exceed any earnings gain associated with child labor and that the net present discounted value of child labor is positive for discount rates of 11.5 percent or higher.

  • Child labor is prevalent among households likely to have higher borrowing costs, that are farther from schools, and whose adult members experienced negative returns to their own education.

  • This evidence suggests that reducing child labor will require facilitating access to credit and will also require households to be forward looking.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

A Living Wage? Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor,"

An APFOL (All Pakistan Federation of Labor) study on brick kiln workers has shown that in spite of husband, wife and children working for 10–14 hours a day in the brick kilns, the familyincome in many cases remains below the national minimum wage fixed for an individual adult worker. Debt bondage and child labor in this sector could be eliminated to a large extent if the workers were paid a living wage, in place of the present highly exploitative poverty level wage.

Export industries, such as sports goods, surgical instruments, carpets, garments, sports wears, hosiery etc should take a lead in allowing a living wage to their workers.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

Case#1: Sports Shoes in Indonesia Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor,"

The Clean Clothes Campaign in Europe in their newsletter No.11 of August

1999 published the following set of figures on sports shoes manufactured in Indonesia:

The above figures show that while the US consumers are paying USD 100 for a

pair of sports shoes, the workers in Indonesia are getting only 40 cents. A similar

situation applies to other internationally traded goods. There exists immense possibilities

for improving the workers’ wages in goods made in third world countries

which are targeted for developed markets. The export sector should take the lead

in providing a living wage to workers.

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

  • Export Sector’s Responsibility Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor,"

  • Examples from four Major Businesses:

    • Reebok

    • Levi Strauss & Co.

    • Pentland Group plc.

    • IKEA

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

What Could be Done? Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor,"

  • Rule of Law Nation/International ILO intervention

    • Case#2: “After The Children Went To School” in class reading

  • Consumer Awareness

    • “Can Consumer Product Labels Deter Foreign Child Labor Exploitation?”

  • Protection from International Trade

    • “Does Globalization Increase Child Labor?

  • Economic Policies

    • Access to credit

    • Anti-poverty measures

    • Pro-growth policies

  • Civil Society – Social Dialog

    • Save the Children

  • Unions

    • Labor Unions / Trade Unions / Teachers Unions

Child labor compiled by can erbil summer 2007

Next: Earth Report IV – Children of Rio Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor,"