Working Toward a Future Without Child Labor

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An 11 year old child works at a metal factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
An 11-year-old child works at a metal factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Working Toward a Future Without Child Labor

On the World Day Against Child Labor, June 12, we’re reminded of progress made in the fight against child labor and we take stock of the work that remains. The international community has marked this day yearly since 2002, a time when an estimated 246 million children were engaged in child labor, nearly 180 million of which involved in hazardous work. While we have made significant progress, today 152 million children remain trapped in such situations, including 73 million who are doing hazardous work.

This year’s World Day Against Child Labor highlights the importance of protecting the health and safety of child workers. This theme highlights the plight of the estimated 19 million children under 12 years of age working in hazardous conditions that often put their health and even their lives at risk. 

The Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), is working with international organizations, foreign governments and civil society organizations to eliminate child labor. For example, The United States has ratified and continues to support International Labor Organization Convention 182, the Convention Against the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which declares the “prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor a matter of urgency.”

DRL also partners with other U.S. government agencies such as the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, whose projects over the past 25 years have provided technical assistance through more than 300 initiatives in over 90 countries designed to eliminate the most hazardous and exploitative forms of child and forced labor.

It is clear that child labor deprives children of their childhood and their potential, through harm to their physical and mental development. Child labor impacts everyone, regardless of age, culture, or ethnicity. If a child is unable to attend school because of work obligations, the child and the child’s family suffer from lack of access to knowledge and resources. Child labor thus perpetuates a cycle of poverty, inequality, and economic and social vulnerability. To break the cycle, children need the freedom to flourish; they can’t do so when confined to fields, mines, or factories. 

On this June 12, we join our partners in the international community in working toward a future without child labor: one in which children need not sacrifice childhood nor education for work.

About the Author: Crofton Kelly serves as an Intern in the Office of International Labor Affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.