Debunking child labour myths

Sunday, November 5, 2017

By Elena Gaia
World Vision Senior Advisor - Policy & Partnerships - Violence Against Children

We hear a lot of excuses to justify child labour.

“The economy in some countries would crash if children weren’t working.”

“Children are learning skills that will help them when they’re older.”

“When I was young, I spent time helping with my parents’ business and it was good for me.”

But there’s one simple fact that debunks every excuse: if children are working so much that they can’t go to school, the cycle will never end.

Sure, economic growth is helpful, but on its own, it does not improve the lives of the most vulnerable children. Education is the one thing that will help children earn a decent living as adults and prevent their children from needing to work. 

That’s why providing free, quality education is one of the main recommendations World Vision is making to leaders ahead of the IV Global Child Labour Conference in Argentina this month. There are 152 million child labourers worldwide and despite progress since 2012, the pace of reduction has slowed significantly.

Kanya is a 12-year-old girl living in Agra, India. She stitches shoes at home, alongside her mother and two older sisters. She is one of 64 million girls working as you are reading this.

“All my friends have also left school to work at home” says Kanya. “We all had to leave school to help support our families. My hope is that my younger brother and sister won’t have to do the same."

Kanya was in grade 5 when she stopped going to school.

World Vision also recommends that governments strengthen child and social protection systems in order to put an end to child labour. What does that look like? 

  • Changing the mindset of people who justify child labour.Helping mothers, fathers, teachers and friends to take action when children aren’t attending school. 

  • Supporting families to generate income sustainably without the need to send their children to work. 

  • Ensuring people can report child labour to the right authorities when they see it. 

What can I do? 

You might be wondering, what I can do as a consumer to help put an end to child labour? Should I avoid shopping in certain stores? Often, it’s hard to determine what products are tied to child labour.  

Most child labour happens in agriculture, so some of it was probably involved in producing what you ate or drank today. Holding the companies who produce things we consume accountable is important, which is why World Vision is also asking governments to force companies to disclose how their products are made or sourced.  

We often see labels that read “no animal testing” on makeup products, yet there is no indication if there was child labour involved in the collection of ingredients or in the production process of those same products. This needs to change. It takes bold action by governments and by us as consumers, to help end child labour.  

Things to know: 

  • 75 percent of child labourers are between the ages of five and 14 

  • One-third of those children do not attend school. 

  • More than two-thirds of all child labour takes place within the family and in agriculture 

For more in-depth reading, you can check out the Eliminating Child Labour, Achieving Inclusive Economic Growth report.