Skip to main content

US Dept of Labor Reports 168 Million Child Laborers Worldwide

Nearly 168 million children worldwide between the ages of 5 and 17 worked as laborers in 2013. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs reported the alarming number in its 13th edition of “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor” released Tuesday.

About half—or 85 million children—performed hazardous work last year. An estimated 6 million children were coerced into forced labor, including being chained to looms, sold to brothels or mandated to pick cotton instead of attending school.

The report examined more than 140 countries and determined which have made significant, moderate, minimal, or no advancement toward reducing the worst forms of child labor. Countries that made “significant advancement” include, Albania, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda.

Child labor decreased 30 percent between 2000 and 2012, but many countries showed “no advancement” in child-labor practices. The British Virgin Islands, Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Eritrea, the Falkland Islands, Montserrat and Norfolk Island were named the worst offenders.

While Brazil made “significant advancement” overall, it was cited as a country that uses child or forced labor in the apparel manufacturing sector, as well as Argentina, China, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The report named Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal and North Korea as countries that use child labor for textile manufacturing.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said, “This report shines a light on the estimated 168 million children around the world who toil in the shadows—crawling underground in mine shafts, sewing in textile factories or serving in households as domestic workers.” He added, “We are seeing more countries take action to address the issue, but the world can and must do more to accelerate these efforts. When children are learning rather than working, families flourish, economies grow and nations prosper.”

Perez also announced the department will be awarding $7 million to the non-profit organization Winrock International to help establish a global project to support countries like Burkina Faso and Nepal, which want to improve their capacity to fight child labor.

The Department of Labor has produced reports to raise awareness about global child labor and has provided funding for more than 275 projects in over 90 countries to combat the practice since 1993.