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Child Labour: Causes and Impacts

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Child labour is a global issue that is becoming increasingly common in modern society due to implicating factors such as labour law/ employment protection, poverty, and the economy (i.e. supply and demand for goods and services). Child labour refers to the employment of young people in jobs that are considered to be illegal and/or exploitive. Including (however not limited to): agriculture, manufacturing, mining and quarrying, prostitution/sexual exploitation and domestic service. This map in which displays the 2014 child labour index has data categories ranging between Extreme Risk, High Risk, Medium Risk, Low Risk and no data/ not applicable. There are concentrations of extreme risk areas across the entire world, centralized in predominantly Northern South America i.e. Brazil and Bolivia, Central America i.e. Mexico and Guatemala, The majority of Africa excluding anomalies sparsely scattered on the periphery of Africa (predominantly in the extreme Northern and extreme Southern areas) including South Africa, Libya and Gabon, Far East Europe, Northern and Southern Asia excluding central countries such as Kazakhstan and Mongolia, and random scatterings in South-East Asia. The top three extreme risk counties in the world are located in the Northeastern periphery of Africa (Eritrea), The Eastern North East periphery of Africa (Somalia) and lastly the core of Africa (Democratic republic of Congo). This displays a central clustered pattern of extreme risk areas in Africa on a global scale. High-risk zones are scattered randomly across the globe, including: within the remainder of South America (the areas that have not already been mentioned as extreme risk), Southern Africa, far Eastern Europe and the remainder of Asia (the areas that have not already been mentioned as extreme risk). Areas that are of low or medium risk include Central and Northern North America, Central and Western Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Lastly there are anomalies in which have no data regarding their child labour statistics including but not limited to: Western Sahara and Greenland. This can be as a result of low population and therefore sparse data collection, data censorship, or in terms of less economically developed countries, not enough funding. Overall the pattern is generally clustered in the core, South-western and North-eastern segments of the map with a holistically dense scattering of child labour across the globe.



Poverty can be defined as a state of being extremely ‘poor’, having inadequate living necessities such as: food, water, shelter, money, goods or means of support. The particular factor of child labour has helped to shape the pattern of this global issue as displayed through the relation between their patterns. Concentrations of risk for child labour are generally compliant to that of poverty rate, the relation being that as poverty rate increases, so does Child labour risk. With the exception of certain anomalies, which do not comply with the shared general trend of poverty and child, labour e.g. China. The most prominent concentrations of child labour on a global scale can be found in Africa with the top three worst recorded child labour index’s being centralized in: Eritrea, Somalia and the Democratic republic of Congo. This relates to multiple independent studies on the poverty rate, which suggest that the proportion of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa is currently the highest in the world, therefore showing an interaction between the three highest risk areas for child labour, and poverty rate. Other global regions poverty statistics (apart from Sub-Saharan Africa) which are displayed in the graph of ‘Extreme Poverty Falls in Every Region of the Developing World’ include: Asia (excluding India), South-Eastern Asia, Eastern Asia (China only) Western Asia, Latin America (and the Caribbean), Sub-Saharan Africa and lastly Northern Africa. All of the regions mentioned for being of the worst poverty rates in the world correspond directly to the concentrations of extreme risk and high risk (high risk being the minority) child labour regions, therefore finalizing the proof of a relationship between poverty and Child labour. Countries that are considered as below the poverty line consist of families within financial struggle who are unable to obtain a sustainable income and further-more basic living necessities such as sanitation, safe-drinking water, food, and shelter. This lack of essential human requirements results in a need for alternate finance, which in some cases is then derived from their children. They are forced to expose their children to child labour in order to gain finance to support their families, which shows a direct interaction between poverty and child labour. However there are also other aspects of poverty in which lead to child labour including lack of education. Lack of education being one of the many measures of poverty, which can result in children being used for cheap labour as opposed to gaining an education. Lack of education occurs due to either communal financial struggle meaning that they are unable to fund a schooling system or individual financial struggle in which individual families cannot afford to send their children to school which once again results in their children becoming victims of child labour.

Labour law/ employment protection

The labour law/ employment protection within a country is a primary contributor to the pattern of child labour risk globally. This is because a country in which has un protected worker rights, is a country that leaves their citizens helpless against employment exploitation such as child labour. There are a number of independent studies that take place with regards to employment rights, one of which is carried out by The Institute of Global Labour and Human Rights. This institute acts to investigate employment protection and rights amongst developing countries. Developing nations are under scrutiny for their labour laws more so than developed nations as less economically developed countries tend to be more prone to seeking out cheap labour due to their still developing businesses and corporations. Still developing in the sense that they are a predominantly primary industry meaning that the profit from their efforts in minimal as they are not selling a final product (which is where the majority of profit is coming in from) and rather are a small part of a larger process. Another reason this study focuses on whether or not less economically developed countries in particular abide by the labour laws in place is because often one of the reasons for a country being less developed is due to government instability which influences enforcement of labour laws. This is because an instable government tends to have less general control over its citizens therefore making them less likely to be able to enforce laws upon civilians and protect the rights of their workers, maximising chance of human rights breach. In the same breath, bribery is also often present within an instable government meaning that corporations often have the ability to use bribery in exchange for the dismissal of their employment exploitation. Less economically developed regions are located approximately within: Latin America, Southern Asia, Far Eastern Europe, and Africa. These regions are all densely clustered with child labour at both high and extreme risk levels, displaying an interaction between the areas under suspicion for labour rights breach and the areas of high/extreme risk of child labour. This therefore shows the implications that labour laws and employment rights can have on child labour, because (as discussed previously) the areas that are less developed are at higher risk of their labour laws being breached due to the requirement for cheap labour amongst developing nations combined with the possibility of government instability which results in lack of protection for workers. However more developed countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and Canada in which have a stable democratic political leaders, have laws placed with the intent of protecting the rights of workers rights, and they have the ability to enforce these laws. These same developed countries are also included in the low risk concentrations of child labour dispersed globally once again displaying the direct interaction between a countries labour laws/ employment rights and the pattern displaying risk of child labour on a global spectrum.


The economy plays a huge part in shaping the pattern of child labour found globally, the sparsely and densely concentrated areas as well as the general dispersal. The success of a world economy can result in child labour in a number of different ways, such as through supply and demand, and general economic change. The general increase in global economy creates competition between countries in order to produce and sell more goods and services in order to enable economic stability within the country and create more employment opportunities. However this increased magnitude of employment opportunities is one of the factors in which helped to shape the pattern of child labour globally. This is due to the fact that the economic growth occurring in present times in developed countries enhances the demand for goods and services to be produced at a low cost.. The demand for commodities to be produced at a low price is one of the influences of child labour within less economically developed nations. This is because although goods and services are readily accessible to developed countries, they demand for less costly commodities which is produced through one or multiple different less economically developed countries before being exported to a more developed country which then sells it for a far greater profit than what they initially obtained it for, strengthening the economy of already developed nations and depleting the economy of less developed nations.

Less economically developed regions are located approximately within: Latin America, Southern Asia, Far Eastern Europe, and Africa. These regions are all densely clustered with child labour at both high and extreme risk levels, due to the economic factors previously discussed. However, this is not the only trend that has helped form the global pattern of child labour. Urbanisation is a process, which by extension, can result in a higher risk of child labour. This is because within less developed countries, the population is often self-sufficient or work in independent agricultural businesses. However due to peoples perspectives on the gradual improvement of the economic environment, and the benefits of a paying job versus a self-sufficient farming life, urbanisation rates are increasing and people are progressing from being self-sufficient to dependent on an employer and income. However as a result of the ever-changing economic environment, urbanisation is risky as often, due to the fluctuations of economy they risk unemployment, which can lead to poverty and their children being forced into child labour as a result, which displays how the economy with relation to urbanisation, helps shape the pattern of child labour globally.



The significance of child labour on the economy is enormous in terms of the affects that it has on the economy. Despite child labour being a form of modern slavery, which is highly illegal and inhumane, it generally has a positive affect on the global economy. This is because regions in which practice child labour have the ability to greaten their GDP as they are generally producing and exporting commodities at a faster rate and a greater magnitude. This allowing for an economic increase within the countries affected by child labour. More economically developed countries also receive economic benefits as a result of child labour as they are able to imports goods at a far cheaper rate than if the commodities had come from a corporation in which pays their workers a higher salary, spends more money on safety precautions, facilities and materials/supplies. This improves the economy, as developed countries are able to spend less money on the imported items and there fore expand to a greater profit margin, further developing their corporations and businesses, economic environment. Although the economic affects of child labour are generally positive, there are negative aspects including the fact that because the products are coming from these primary industries in which have few resources and sparsely educated, pre-adolescent staff, the goods are not always of the same quality/ value that they would have been, had they have been made in better conditions by a more knowledgeable staff. The affect of this lack of quality is that some corporations will opt for a more expensive alternative that tends to last longer as opposed to buying the products produced by cheap labour, which would ultimately reverse the positive affects of child labour. However this reigns true only for a minority allowing to conclude the significance of child labour within the economy in predominantly positive.


The significance of child labour socially in terms of a global spectrum can include aspects such as: Dehumanisation, Breech of human rights, and the promotion of child exploitation/abuse (especially within families and communities). As a result of child labour, socially, we are dehumanising both the recipients of child labour produced products as well as the children who are being exposed to this form of labour. This is due to the fact that the people who are receiving these products are often knowledgeable of its origins, and still choose to purchase it regardless. Also, children who are working in child labour environments are trapped within a form of modern slavery in which they are forced and obligated to complete work tasks in which are out of the normal social guidelines for their age: i.e. getting an education and developing their social skills. This leads to dehumanisation as child labour has changed social regulations in order to make it appropriate to dismiss the compassion and sympathy that humans are meant to feel for each other. Another social implication is the fact that child labour is a clear breech of human rights, as any involuntary act that a person is forced to do is against their right as a human-being, as well as the fact that often they are denied their education, social life, and childhood, which is also a breech of their rights. Lastly, the occurrence of child labour promotes exploitation and abuse amongst families and entire communities. Often child labour is caused by parents who send their children into labour due to the fact that they need the extra salary in order to survive, regardless of this fact, a parent sending their children into child labour is a form a abuse as they are exploiting their children in order to gain finance. The same can be said for a community who allows child labour to occur, displaying the social significance of child labour on a global spectrum.


Galli, R. (2001). The Economic impact of child labour. Retrieved May 3, 2015, from http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---inst/documents/publication/wcms_193680.pdf

Multiple authors from ILO, Child Labour. Retrieved May 3, 2015, from http://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang--en/index.htm

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Naeem, Zahid, Faiza Shaukat, and Zubair Ahmed. "Child Labor in Relation to Poverty." International Journal of Health Sciences. Qassim University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2011. Web. 2 May 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3533357/>.

Varma, Bhakati. "Child Labour and Its Impact on Economic Growth." Child Labour and Its Impact on Economic Growth. Slideshare, 2011. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://www.slideshare.net/BhaktiVarma/child-labour-and-its-impact-on-economic-growth-9225274>.

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