Checking our Assumptions about Child Labor

In the spirit of recent calls to reform institutional racism in America, we need to better understand our assumptions about each other and the world. June 12 marked World Day Against Child Labor. Consider this commonly held assumption: “In developing countries, children need to work in order to lift their families out of poverty.” The Human Resources without Borders debunks this thinking: “Child labor contributes to devaluing the adult wage, perpetuating poverty.” While not all forms of child labor are horrendous, many children are involved with work that perpetuates a cycle of poverty and negatively impacts their physical, mental and developmental well-being and their education.

Child labor is more prevalent in previously colonized regions of the world. About 72.1 million child laborers come from Africa, 62.1 million Asia and the Pacific, 10.7 million in the Americas in 10.7 million, and 1.2 million in the Arab States. Child labor that interferes with a child’s well-being and education is no longer an acceptable experience for children in the western countries, and should not be acceptable for other children just because of their birthplace. The recent racial injustice movement reminds us that we cannot stand silent when faced with social injustice, and World Day against Child Labor should be included in our social justice work.

Quick facts from the International Labor Organization:

  • Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment. Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour. Hazardous labor, also includes the “worst forms of child labor” such as child trafficking and slavery.
  • These numbers have decreased over the years (i.e. from 2000-2012 child labor declined by one-third), but we still have a long way to go.
  • While many of us may be transitioning out of shelter in place, ILO + UNICEF are concerned that COVID-19 will have long-term setbacks for child labor. We highlight some of these setbacks in our recent IGTV on Instagram.

What can you do

Take ten minutes to review our recent IGTV video about implicit bias:

  1. Learn about your implicit bias. Take the test:
  2. Review ILO + UNICEF’s Joint Report:—ed_norm/—ipec/documents/publication/wcms_747421.pdf
  3. Let’s make sure our communities are ethically sourced and free of child labor. If you’re based in NY check out the #MakeManhattanFair Campaign. If you’re not based in NY, check out Fair Trade Campaign’s website to see or start a Fair Trade Campaign in your town, school, university, congregation, or to introduce Fair Trade into your workplace!