Causes of child labour

Briefing note | 08 June 2015
The causes of child labour are numerous and vary from one country to another and from one economic sector to another. Several common main causes can however be identified:

• Poverty is a determining factor of child labour. Poor families send their children to work (or ask them to work in the family business), because they don’t have enough income and nor do they have access to decent work.

• Because it has been with us for so long people can start seeing child labour as an ‘acceptable’ tradition which of course it is not! In this environment families are happy to receive the income that the child labour generates and employers see themselves as providing a social service. What of course is required is an economic and social environment.

• Very often, working children are a cheap workforce reservoir. In some areas, the significant availability of child workers undermines decent working conditions for adult workers, keeping wages low and making it even harder for families to meet their economic needs.

• Informal work encourages the development of child labour as it lacks both regulation and inspections.

• Lack of quality education limits the chances of the child worker to escape from the cycle of poverty. Educational gaps impact on child labourers as they move into adulthood as low levels of literacy and vocational qualifications deprive them of decent work opportunities not allowing them to get out from poverty.

• Discrimination in terms of gender and socio-economic status can be identified as one of the main causes of Child Labour.

• Armed conflicts is another important cause of child labour. Children are more vulnerable and can be enlisted as child soldiers or used in military operations.