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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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At ChildFund we believe all children should grow up feeling cared for, encouraged and valued, no matter where they live.

Every child should explore, learn and thrive, and be able to reach their potential.

Unfortunately, many children around the world grow up in an environment of fear, unable to have the childhood they need. Millions of children are forced to work in dangerous conditions when they should be learning and growing in the safety of a classroom.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to force more children into the workforce, with the economic impact adding further pressure to the household income of vulnerable families.

Despite laws to protect children, and an overall decline in the number of child labourers, 152 million children are still working too early. Below we take a look at how all 152 million children around the world are affected by exploitation as child labourers.

Many children work in agriculture, construction and other hazardous jobs

Of the 152 million children working, 73 million are in hazardous jobs. Agriculture, construction and manufacturing are some of the main industries employing children. In these industries children can be exposed to toxic chemicals, expected to operate dangerous machinery, and expected to work long hours and risk abuse.

When children work they often have to drop out of school, or their education suffers as a result of the additional responsibilities they have outside of school.

“In my life, I am happiest when I go to school, and see my classmates having fun,” said Phhuong, from Cambodia who dropped out of school in Grade 6 to help her younger brother continue his education.

“When I see my friends going to school, I feel very regretful. “I am not able to meet them any more. We used to play together.”

A report by the International Labor Organisation in 2015 found that in some countries working children were half as likely to attend school as children who were not working.

Without an education, or with a limited education, children are more likely to end up low-paid jobs which decreases their chances to escape poverty.

Older children are expected to work to provide for their younger siblings

In the world’s poorest countries, one in four children is a child labourer.

In many cases, the eldest child in the family is the most vulnerable to child labour. As soon as they are old enough to work, they are expected to help provide for their younger siblings.

Children may be expected to work if their parents are unable to

Sometimes children will be forced to work if one of their parents is unable to work. This is what happened to Arum’s daughter Mony, who is 13 years old and working in a dangerous brick factory after he mother was injured at work.

“I don’t want my kids uneducated like me,” Arun said. “I want them to study so they’re able to find better jobs.

“But I didn’t know what to do when my wife could not help me out on family income.”

Almost half of all child labourers are younger than 11 years old. In most regions, girls and boys are equally likely to be engaged in child labour.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted child labour?

COVID-19 has shocked markets and economies around the globe. The resulting impact has the potential to push millions of children living in developing communities into child labour. As parents become sick with COVID-19, children may be forced to work to support the household. There is also no guarantee that all children in developing communities will be able to return to school once government lockdowns lift and schools reopen. Children who do not return to school are at high risk of early entry to the workforce. 

Regions where child labour markets have been particularly resistant to changes in policy and practice may see circumstances become more difficult for children in the workforce. Disrupted supply chains, falling commodity prices and stalled manufacturing could see children, already in the workforce, enduring more hazardous conditions than before.

Get involved with World Day Against Child Labour

World Day Against Child Labour is a United Nations sanctioned observance that is held annually on 12 June. The observance raises awareness of child labour and encourages activism against child labour of all forms.

What is the theme for World Day Against Child Labour 2021?

World Day Against Child Labour 2021 is focused on mitigating the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic on progress towards reducing child labour and exploitation around the globe. 

This year the United Nations will launch a “Week of Action”, beginning on 12 June, with the release of new estimates on child labour and the effect of COVID-19 on child labour statistics.

How can you get involved with World Day Against Child Labour?

If you’d like to get involved with World Day Against Child Labour, there’s a few ways you can join the conversation:

  • Make a pledge: Encourage your organisation to make a pledge against child labour and how you will contribute to positive advances towards its reduction. 
  • Raise awareness: Share the new estimates for child labour or related resources on social media and raise awareness about the impact of COVID-19 on child labour around the globe. 
  • Start a conversation: Talk to family, friends, colleagues and others in your network about child labour. 
  • Fundraise for charity: Organise a charity fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an organisation that works against child labour, such as ChildFund Australia. No contribution to the cause is too small. 
  • Organise an activity: If you’re a teacher, you may wish to organise an activity at your school to raise awareness about child labour. 

How you can help end child labour

ChildFund believes that ending the exploitation of children is inextricably linked to our poverty reduction work.

Poverty can result in more children becoming involved in harmful labour, rendering them vulnerable to trafficking, and increasing the likelihood of girls marrying at a young age.

ChildFund works with local partners, governments and communities to prevent and respond to the exploitation of children around the world. Donate now to help give children a childhood in which they are nurtured, protected, and have access to opportunity.

You can also give to our COVID-19 emergency appeal, and help provide vital assistance for children impacted by the pandemic around the globe. You’ll help keep children safe during a crisis where children are at risk of being exploited.

The United Nations states there is no consensus on a universal definition of poverty that can be applied to all countries. Poverty can mean a shortage of financial resources and possessions, or it can mean the lack of access to essential services, such as healthcare, education and safe environments. 

Whatever your definition may be, we know that poverty and disadvantage can limit the opportunities for millions of children in vulnerable communities. And while aid in the form of food, water and shelter can provide much-needed support, access to education is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty.

Children want to go to school

A ChildFund Alliance global children’s survey, Small Voices, Big Dreams polled 3,000 children aged 10-12 from developing countries around the world. With the goal of understanding what children deem important in their lives, the poll found that education, food and water were the three priorities children valued most.

Of those children surveyed, over half said if they were the president of their country, their highest priority would be to improve education. The children offered a range of ideas for how they would execute this priority, including improving and building new schools, making education free, offering school supplies and textbooks to students, and increasing access to education for all children.

What is the cycle of poverty?

Education and poverty are inextricably linked. Families living in vulnerable communities often need their children to stop attending school and begin work to supplement the household income. As a result, children don’t learn important literacy and numeracy skills and are limited to unskilled, low paying jobs.  With limited opportunities to earn better incomes, the cycle of poverty continues.

How does education reduce poverty?

Children in Vietnam

Education is a powerful tool. Equipping children with knowledge and skills gives them greater access to opportunity, and the chance to end the cycle of disadvantage. Here are just a few of the ways education helps reduce poverty in vulnerable communities.

1. Improving gender equality

When young women and girls have access to education their futures are brighter. Not only do they learn useful numeracy and literacy skills, but they are also more likely to:

  • have children as an adult: 59% fewer girls below the age of 17 would become pregnant if all girls had secondary education;
  • earn a higher income: every extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by up to 20%
  • save lives: a child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five
  • have a greater chance of ending the cycle of poverty. Most women invest 90% of their income into providing food, clothing and education for their children and community.

2. Increases individual income

The Global Partnership for Education says that an educated individual’s income increases by 10% for each year of schooling. For every dollar invested in an additional year of education, a person’s earnings increase by at least $2.50 in low to middle-income countries, and up to $5 in lower-income countries.

3. Literacy improves health

Education has been linked to improving standards of health around the world. Increased literacy skills enable women to read and access important and useful information during and after pregnancy which can reduce the rates of prenatal and maternal mortality, and improves children’s health. 

Access to information also means children and families have a better understanding of the importance of clean water and sanitation practices, which helps to reduce waterborne disease and the costs of medical care.

How can you help children access an education? 

ChildFund offers a variety of ways for you to donate and help children in vulnerable communities access education.
You can help by donating a scholarship or by sponsoring a child in a developing community to help ensure that they have opportunities for a brighter future.