Giving Children A Childhood: How Child Labor Has Dramatically Decreased

These are some of the things that would have to happen to end child labor for good.

Photo by Jorge Royan/Wikimedia Commons.


Rates of child labor continue to fall dramatically thanks to global efforts.

Child labor does more damage than just robbing kids of a childhood. It also exposes them to potentially harmful machinery and chemicals and increases the likelihood they could end up victims of human or sex trafficking. At its best, it’s grossly unfair, and at its worst, it’s negatively affecting the child’s entire life.

But over the last 16 years, child labor numbers have been greatly reduced. In fact, there were 250 million victims of child labor in 2000, and in 2016, there were reportedly 152 million. That’s almost 100 million fewer kids in child labor just 16 years. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the International Labor Organization reports that of the 35 countries investigated, only 6% showed no progress. That means 94% of those 35 countries made some leeway combating child labor.

There are still big hurdles ahead. The initial goal of ending child labor by 2025 is now an ambition that’s out of reach, according to experts. Why? For one thing, parts of Africa have seen a rise in child labor. In Chad, for example, more than half the children between ages 5 and 14 are involved in some form of labor. The Syrian civil war also did its part to expose millions of children to a life of hard manual work.

The International Labor Organization and NGOs around the world are working on solutions. But sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back. The reality is you could pull a child out only to have them resort to something far worse to care for themselves or their families. And the child labor issue is also intertwined with education and wages paid to adults. Increasing accessibility to schools (and school supplies) and boosting what parents make are two important pieces of the puzzle—a puzzle that, ultimately, needs quite a few pieces to come together to achieve progress. But the fact that the practice has been reduced by nearly 100 million children in 16 years is a huge start.

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