Highly Vulnerable Children

Heart iconGet the facts about child labor and how it affects impoverished children and their families.

The facts about child labor show that it is a far-reaching problem, especially for children living in poverty around the world. Because children don’t have a voice or a platform, they are extra vulnerable to those who are looking to abuse them.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labor as work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
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Through our holistic child development programs we are working to change the facts about children working in child labor. When you sponsor a child, your sponsorship provides a way for that child to attend school and provides basic necessities for his family so he doesn’t have to work. On average, a child in our sponsorship program spends 4,000 hours in safe, nurturing programs, is at least 50 percent more likely to graduate college, is 14 to 18 percent more likely to have salaried employment and is 35 percent more likely to find white-collar employment as an adult.

The following facts about child labor illustrate a heartbreaking reality that must be ended.


  • 152 million children worldwide are victims of child labor; 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls.1
  • Girls may be more present in less visible and therefore under-reported forms of child labor such as domestic service in private households, and girls are much more likely than boys to shoulder responsibility for household chores, a form of work not considered in child labor estimates1
  • Girls who leave school early do so disproportionately to undertake responsibility for chores within their own homes, while boys are more likely to leave school prematurely in order to join the labor force.2
  • 48 percent of all victims of child labor are aged 5-11 years.1
  • Almost half of child labor victims (73 million) work in hazardous child labor; more than one-quarter of all hazardous child labor is done by children less than 12 years old (19 million).1
  • Almost half of child workers are in Africa (72.1 million); 41 percent (62.1 million) are in Asia and the Pacific.1
  • 71 percent of child labor takes place in agriculture, which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding and aquaculture.1
  • 19 percent of child labor victims live in low income countries; 2 million victims live in high-income countries.1
  • There is a strong correlation between child labor and situations of conflict and disaster. The incidence of child labor in countries affected by armed conflict is 77 percent higher than the global average; the incidence of hazardous work is 50 percent higher.1
  • Forced labor is thought to generate around $150 billion a year in illegal profits. 3
  • More than two-thirds of all children in child labor (69.1 percent) work as contributing family laborers on family farms and in family enterprises, not in an employment relationship with a third-party employer.1
  • Children forced by their household circumstances or other factors to leave school prior to their fifteenth birthday are less likely to ever find jobs and those who do find jobs take much longer to do so. 2
  • Former child laborers are much more likely to have only primary education or less. 2
  • Young persons who worked as children (up to the age of 15) are more likely to be in low-paying jobs. 2

How Do the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Relate to Compassion?

Students looking through window and smilingThe UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) directly parallel what Compassion does. But when it comes to goals and implementation we sometimes take a different approach. This is a quick analysis of the SDGs and how they most closely match our work, along with ways they overlap and differ.

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1 Global Estimates of Child Labour: Results and Trends 2012-2016 / International Labour Office. Geneva: ILO, 2017

2 World report on child labour 2015: Paving the way to decent work for young people / International Labour Office. Geneva: ILO, 2015

3 UNDP. Human Development Report 2015. Work for Human Development.