Child labour

Description: Child labour at a glance

According to ILO statistics and estimates, approximately 168 million children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 are at work worldwide. If gathered in one country, its population would be almost four times that of Argentina and five times Peru's population. Child labour includes:

  • Children and adolescents engaged in productive activities who have not reached the minimum age for admission to employment established in the national legislation of each country in a manner consistent with international standards.
  • Children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 engaged in hazardous activities as determined by the national legislation of each country.
  • Children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 victims of the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, trafficking in persons, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour such as forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflicts, commercial sexual exploitation and pornography and the use of underage persons to commit crimes.

Although Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the regions that has made sustained progress in reducing child labour, it should be noted that between 2008 and 2012, this decrease was much lower than in other periods, only 1.6 million. Currently the region has 12.5 million children and adolescents between 5 and 17 years old in child labour (8.8% of the total population in that age range). Of these, 2.9 million do so without having reached the minimum age allowed to work in accordance with national legislation and international regulations and 9.6 million are engaged in hazardous activities.

In terms of modalities, 45% are unpaid family workers; 34% wage earners, 10% independents and 7% are linked to domestic services.

It is important to highlight that one-third of children and adolescents in child labour in the region work 36 hours or more, while 4 out of 10 do so for 15 to 35 hours per week. About 45% of boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 14 work 14 hours or less, while adolescents from 15 to 17 do so over a 36-hour period.

Hazardous child labour

Hazardous child labour covers any activity or occupation which, by reason of its nature or the conditions in which it is performed, has or may have detrimental effects on the safety, health, development or morals of children and adolescents.

Hazardous child labour is considered a proxy for worst forms of child labour because it can be captured by regular surveys and because of the difficulty involved in the reliable measurement of activities of a criminal nature.

Some of the criteria frequently used to identify hazardous child labour are:

  • Night or long hours.
  • Exposure to physical, psychological or sexual abuse.
  • Work performed underground, underwater, at dangerous heights or in confined spaces.
  • Work with dangerous machinery, equipment or tools.
  • Work which involves the handling or carrying of heavy loads.
  • Work performed in an unhealthy environment which may expose children to hazardous substances, agents or processes, or to temperatures, noise levels, or vibrations damaging to their health.