Sectors and topics

This section provides in-depth information on several sectors and topics of child labour as well as issues that compound the problem.  The list that appears here is by no means exhaustive and we will be adding new sections periodically.
  1. Education

    Education is a crucial component of any effective effort to eliminate child labour. There are many interlinked explanations for child labour. No single factor can fully explain its persistence and, in some cases, growth.

  1. Child labour and domestic work

    Throughout the world, thousands of children are working as domestic helpers, performing tasks such as cleaning, ironing, cooking, minding children and gardening. In many countries this phenomenon is not only socially and culturally accepted but might be regarded positively as a protected and non-stigmatised type of work, and therefore preferable to other forms of work, especially for the girl-child. The perpetuation of traditional female roles and responsibilities within and outside the household, and the perception of domestic service as part of a woman’s apprenticeship for adulthood and marriage, also contribute to the low recognition of domestic work as a form of economic activity, and of child domestic labour as a form of child labour.

  2. Hazardous child labour

    Hazardous child labour is work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions that could result in a child being killed, or injured and/or made ill as a consequence of poor safety and health standards and working arrangements. Some injuries or ill health may result in permanent disability. Often health problems caused by working as a child labour may not develop or show up until the child is an adult.

  3. Agriculture

    In many countries child labour is mainly an agricultural issue. Worldwide 60 percent of all child labourers in the age group 5 - 17 years work in agriculture, including farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry, and livestock. This amounts to over 129 million girls and boys. The majority (67.5%) of child labourers are unpaid family members. In agriculture this percentage is higher, and is combined with very early entry into work, sometimes between 5 and 7 years of age.

  4. Child labour and armed conflict

    Tens of thousands of girls and boys find themselves fighting adult wars in at least 17 countries in different regions around the world. Some are used as fighters and take direct part in hostilities while others are used in supportive roles (e.g. cooks, porters, messengers, or spies) or for sexual purposes. They are abducted, forcefully recruited or personally decide to enrol (for instance for survival, for protection or for vengeance). However, when personal initiatives are analysed, it becomes clear that they were taken under duress and in ignorance of the consequences.

  5. Commercial sexual exploitation

    Commercial sexual exploitation of children is the exploitation by an adult with respect to a child or an adolescent – female or male – under 18 years old; accompanied by a payment in money or in kind to the child or adolescent (male or female) or to one or more third parties.The ILO considers commercial sexual exploitation of children an abhorrent violation of the human rights of children and adolescents and a form of economic exploitation similar to slavery and forced labour, which also implies a crime on the part of those who use girls and boys and adolescents in the sex trade.

  6. Corporate social responsability

    Companies are increasingly concerned with child labour in their supply chains. They view it as inconsistent with company values, and a threat to their image and ability to recruit and retain top employees, as well as to the sustainability of their supply chain.

  7. Gender

    "Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men (boys and girls) of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels.

    It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women (girls) as well as of men (boys) an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men (girls and boys) benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated.

    The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality."

  8. HIV/AIDS

    The high mortality of adults in their reproductive and productive prime from AIDS and AIDS-related illnesses and the number of girls and boys growing up without a responsible guardian have a serious impact on national development and the future of the children concerned. With a lack of adult mentors and limited prospects for education, many orphaned girls and boys miss out on the developmental skills and technical know-how needed to access decent work in their adult lives. The impact of HIV-AIDS on communities, families and entire countries undermines the process of socialization of children in its broadest sense, inverting care-giving roles and giving rise to social exclusion and loss of identity.

  9. Labour inspection

    IPEC works to build the capacities of labour inspectorates and other enforcement agencies to take action against child labour, especially in respect of hazardous child labour and child labour monitoring.

  10. Migration and child labour

    Globally, 1 in 8 persons is a migrant. This includes an estimated 214 million international migrants and an estimated 740 million internal migrants. Youth account for a large share; about a third of the migrant flow from all developing countries is in the age range of 12 to 24. This includes millions of children under the age of 18 who migrate internally or across national borders, with or without their parents.

  11. Mining and quarrying

    Children go deep underground in tunnels only as wide as their bodies…
    Children haul loads of coal that weigh more than they do…
    Children sit for long hours in the sun, pounding boulders into road gravel…
    Children use their hands to work gold out of rocks using toxic mercury…
    Children squat the whole day in water, sifting through sand for a precious gem…

    About one million children work in mines and the number is increasing.

  12. Safe work for youth

    An estimated 115 million children under 18 years old are doing work which poses a physical, psychosocial or moral danger to them. Of these – about 62 million – are young people whose work could be considered legal if there was minimal risk or if they were well-trained and well-protected from the hazards. But how can risks to young people be reduced to acceptable levels? What do employers, parents, policy-makers, and the young people themselves need to know so that they can work safely?

  13. Social dialogue

    Social dialogue as defined by the ILO includes all types of negotiation, consultation or exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues relating to economic and social policy, including child labour, and to terms and conditions of work and employment.

  14. Tracer studies

    IPEC has developed and refined a methodology for Tracer studies of child labour projects. A tracer study is a retrospective analysis taking a sample of former beneficiaries of a child labour intervention and looking into the changes that transpired in their lives and that of their families.

  15. Trafficking in children

    Child trafficking is about taking children out of their protective environment and preying on their vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation. Although no precise figures exist, the ILO (in 2005) estimated that 980,000 to 1,225,000 children - both boys and girls - are in a forced labour situation as a result of trafficking.