Child Labor Facts

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 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.


  • There are 168 million children worldwide trapped in child labor, accounting for almost 11 percent of the overall child population: 1 100 million boys and 68 million girls. Around half are engaged in hazardous work.2
  • Nearly 60 percent of child labor takes place in agriculture. 1
  • Forced labor is thought to generate around $150 billion a year in illegal profits. 2
  • There are 75 million young persons aged 15 to 24 years of age who are unemployed and many more who must settle for jobs that fail to offer a fair income, security in the workplace, social protection or other basic decent work attributes. 1
  • Former child laborers are much more likely to have only primary education or less. 1
  • Young persons who worked as children (up to the age of 15) are more likely to be in low-paying jobs. 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. 1
  • Children in hazardous work that directly harms their health, safety or moral development make up more than half of all child laborers, numbering 85 million in absolute terms. 1
  • A total of 47.5 million adolescents aged 15 to 17 years are in hazardous work, accounting for 40 percent of all employed adolescents aged 15 to 17 years and over one-quarter (28 percent) of all child laborers. 1
  • Hazardous work appears especially common among adolescents employed in industry and agriculture. 1
  • In developing countries, large shares of youth leave school at or below the general minimum working age of 15 years. 1
  • Early school leavers are at greater risk of remaining outside the world of work altogether, i.e. of never transiting to work. 1
  • Early school leavers are less likely than their more-educated counterparts to secure stable jobs. 1
  • 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. 1

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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