Child Labor in Developing Countries

Many observers believed that child labor in developing countries had remained in the past. However, there is very strong evidence that child labor continues to be a serious problem and that with the advent of the economic crisis, its scale may increase. Governments should monitor this situation and use the Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty as recommendation for taking preventive and corrective measures.

In a time of economic decline, vulnerable people always suffer more than others. Therefore, the connection between the decline in economic growth and the increase in child labor is not surprising. Because of the recession, many developing countries have dramatically reduced social assistance. And as unemployment grows, many families have found no other solution than to send their children to work.

Harmful and Dangerous Work

The prevalence of child labor in developing countries is a well-known problem: according to the International Labor Organization, more than 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 work now.

Child slave labor in China was detected in 2007 in illegal coal mines and brick factories in Shanxi Province. Children get there in different ways: they are kidnapped, sold, and lured by deception. They are forced to work 18-19 hours a day. The age of children is between 8-13 years.

Côte d’Ivoire is the main producer of cocoa beans in the world. According to a number of international human rights groups, the slave labor of children is used in the plantations. In particular, the company Cargill Inc. uses child labor. In Cargill, the exploitation of child labor is prohibited – the official working age starts from 18 years. However, this law is ignored. The chocolate industry, governments, and civil rights organizations have created an international campaign to address the problem, but child labor continues to be exploited. Large companies like Cargill do not own plantations, so officially they do not hire employees. They simply buy cocoa beans from workers. Still, human rights activists say that the responsibility for improving working conditions lies precisely with similar companies. Chocolate with the fair trade label is produced without the use of slave labor.

The Nike Corporation is also known to use child slave labor.

According to the International Labor Rights Fund, Monsanto uses child labor. In India alone, more than 12,000 children work in cotton plantations owned by Monsanto and other transnational agro-corporations. Many children have died or gotten serious diseases as a result of exposure to pesticides. The annual profit of Monsanto is $5.4 billion.

What We Need to Do

Governments need to urgently pay special attention to child labor, investigate, collect data, and monitor. Most countries have appropriate legislation, but they do not follow existing practices.
The guiding principle should be the best interests of the child, as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The authorities should carefully evaluate the potential impact on child labor concerning budget cuts in education.
They should also analyze the impact on child labor due to reductions in the social sphere and family support: the main reason why children are forced to work is poverty.
Institutions engaged in inspection of working conditions should be able to properly carry out their work.
States must actively combat children trading for forced labor and exploitation.

What Will Be the Future of These Children?

We are deeply concerned that so little attention has been paid to the risks of child labor in developing countries. In most countries, officials are aware of this problem, but only a few want to deal with it. The mere fact that data and figures are almost absent or merely approximate is already a concern. It is impossible to deal with the problem without having information about its scope, nature, and consequences.

Of particular concern is the fact that the need to work hinders the schooling of children: this quickly begins to affect their academic performance and many of them eventually leave school. And this only reproduces the vicious cycle of poverty. A country can develop only when it chooses education for children, not work.

It is necessary to take many concrete measures. Last year, we saw how these actions began to be implemented in one direction in Turkey, where the government passed a law that increases the age of compulsory education to 17 years, in order to minimize the risk of labor exploitation. It is necessary to have more similar initiatives.

When the problem of child labor is not solved, this only jeopardizes the future of these children. We must act right now, for the sake of the future of these children and our own societies.

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Hannah is an academic writer at and a freelance blogger. Her main goal is to share the expertise and add value to the community. In her spare time, she is working on her painting skills.

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