Despite centuries of efforts against forcing children to enter the workforce across much of the developed world, internationally, child labor remains a major problem. In many countries, children are made to work in such dangerous jobs as logging, mining, and fighting in wars, as well as exploiting them as beggars, household servants, and even for sexual purposes. To help pinpoint which countries are the worst offenders in the realm of child labor, the international consulting firm Maplecroft has compiled a Child Labor Index to rank them. As you will see, the most horrific and widespread child labor practices today are seen in Africa and Southern and Western Asia.
An African country on the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria suffers from widespread poverty leading to a large number of cases of child labor within the country. According to data from International Labor Organization, over 15 million children in the country below the age of 14 are child laborers. Girls enter the labor world at an earlier age than boys and are primarily employed as domestic helps in households. Boys and girls are also engaged in agricultural work, street hawking and street begging, mining and construction work, shoe shining, car washing auto repair, conducting minibuses, and numerous other activities. In Nigeria, child labor forms an important source of income for the child’s family. Many children involved in labor miss classes in schools, drop out from schools, suffer from exploitation and malnutrition and face various forms of adverse situations.
Over 68% of the population of Burundi, a landlocked nation in East Africa, are below the poverty line. This is reflected in a large number of child laborers in the country. Nearly one in five children in Burundi are engaged in some kind of labor activity such as working as domestic helps (primarily girls), working in the family owned agricultural fields as well as industrial plantations, and other types of child labor activities. Despite schooling till the age of 12 being free in the country, only about 71% of the children receive some form of formal education. Children in the country are also affected by the internal conflicts prevailing within the country where many children were forced into participating as war soldiers or detained in prison. War and disease in the country have also led to many children being orphaned and forced into labor as their only means of survival.
As reported in the 2014 findings of the United States Department of Labor, about 834,866 children in Yemen between the ages of 5 and 14 are engaged as child laborers, of which 70% are involved in such agriculture-related work as growing crops, raising livestock, hunting, and fishing. Services like begging, selling, domestic and restaurant work and industries like mining, construction, and automobile manufacturing, are the other areas employing child laborers. Children in Yemen are also used in armed conflicts and as armed guards, and girls are often the victims of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
Child labor is highly prevalent in Zimbabwe where children are engaged in various sectors of work in agriculture, industry and services. Around 96% of the child laborers are engaged in tea, sugarcane, cotton plantations as well as in forestry and fishing industries. Mining activities, vending, and begging on the streets and domestic work is also often performed by children. A large number of orphan children in the country also work in various sectors to sustain themselves. Children born often lack valid birth certificates due to lack of awareness among their parents regarding the need of such certificates. These children are usually unable to enter secondary school and sit for exams due to the inability to produce birth certificates, forcing them to enter the labor world for their livelihood.
As per the United States Department of Labor report, nearly 13% of Pakistani children accounting for 2,449,480 individuals between the ages of 10 to 14 are child laborers. 76% of these children work in the agricultural sector involving activities like working in crop fields, fishing and shrimp harvesting and processing. A large number of children are also engaged in restaurants, tea stalls, transportation, and garbage scavenging. The glass bangle industry, carpet weaving, coal mining, brick kilns, and the automotive industry also employ Pakistani children. According to ILO, poverty is the single major factor responsible for the high prevalence of child labor in the country. With 17.2% of the population living below poverty line, families are often forced to send their children to work to sustain the family.
Children in Afghanistan form a large part of the nation’s workforce and are often forced to work in the brick production industry and participate in armed conflict situations. Children are also employed in agriculture, mining, carpet weaving, street work, firewood gathering and other types of work. As per reports of the United States Department of Labor, only around 41.8% of Afghani children aged between 5 to 14 attend school. Commercial sexual exploitation of children, especially boys in bacha baazi, involving the use of young boys for social and sexual entertainment of men, is quite prevalent. Child trafficking of both girls and boys is also quite active in this country where children are trafficked both nationally and transnationally for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.
South Sudan has a huge population of child laborers working in the country, often under extremely adverse work situations. As much as 45.6% of children in South Sudan between the ages 10 to 14 are engaged as child laborers. Only 31.5% of children in the country, aged 6 to 14, actually attend school. 60.2% of the child laborers in South Sudan are engaged in the agricultural sector while 38.2% work in the services sector and small percentage in the industrial sector (which is highly underdeveloped). The prevalence of high large scale poverty and food insecurity in the country, the ravages of a constantly raging civil war, are some of the factors forcing the children to enter the labor market in South Sudan. Involvement of children in armed conflict is also not uncommon here.
In Myanmar, around 1.5 million school age children between the ages of 10 to 17 are forced to work as labor. The agricultural sector in the country employs the greatest number of children while construction and small-scale industries also involve children as part of their workforce. Poverty is considered to be the prime factor leading to the involvement of children in the work-force to supplement the low household income in the country.
3. DR Congo
Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are often forced to work in gold, wolframite, and coltan mines, as well as being engaged in the armed conflicts prevalent in the region. 3,327,806 children in the country are child laborers working in various sectors like agriculture, industry and services. Children are often hindered from going to school, especially in eastern Congo, and they are also forcibly recruited into armed forces while attending schools. Sexual exploitation of children is also common here. Inability to provide valid birth registration certificates and proof of citizenship often leaves children no choice but to enter the labor markets, toiling hard to make money for their poor families. Use of children as slaves is also practiced by the non-national armed groups.
39.8% of children between the ages of 5 to 14, numbering around 1,012,863, are child laborers in Somalia. Only half of children within this age range attend school. Fishing, threshing grain, and livestock raising are just some of the agricultural activities where Somali children are employed to work as labor. Construction and mining industries operating within the country also use children as part of the workforce. Children are also seen begging on the streets, hawking, and minibus conducting. Children are also engaged in armed conflicts, illegal and anti-national activities. Sexual exploitation and human trafficking of children are also not uncommon. The high rates of poverty prevailing in Somalia often force parents to surrender their children to the labor world. Education system in the country is poorly developed due to the high social, economic and political insecurity prevailing in the country.
Eritrea is ranked number one as one of the worst countries for child labor in the world. In Eritrea, the government holds programs under which children in grades 9 to 11 are asked to offer their labor in various fields like agriculture and public services. Children are also often forced to participate in compulsory military training programs. Though laws are there against the employment of children as labor, the implementation of the laws are weak and many children are often dragged into forced labor where they are heavily exploited. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also takes place in the country.