Despite centuries of efforts against forcing children to enter the workforce, child labor remains a major problem internationally. 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. Here are the countries where children are deemed to be at "extreme risk" of exploitative labor according to Maplecroft.
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. The human trafficking of children is also not uncommon. The high rates of poverty prevailing in Somalia often force parents to surrender their children to the labor world. The education system in the country is poorly developed due to the high social, economic and political insecurity prevailing in the country.
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.
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 a 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.
In Myanmar, around 1.5 million school age children between the ages of 10 to 17 are forced to work as laborers. 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.
According to the US Department of Labor, 358,179 children in Liberia work. This represents over 30% of the country's total child population. Many of these children are involved in jobs in agriculture that leaves them exposed to hazardous chemicals and dangerous activities. The country's lack of labor laws have been blamed for making children vulnerable to these kinds of labor. An insufficient justice system and widespread poverty have also been blamed.
India, the world's second most populated country, has as many as 33 million child laborers. Some of the places that children in India work include in mines, on farms, and in garment factories. Unfortunately, although the economy has grown over the past several decades, not everyone in the population has benefited evenly. Despite legislative efforts, the number of child workers has increased over recent years, particularly in the country's major cities, where many children move to for work.
Despite more and more recent government efforts, underage working remains a problem in Ethiopia. 41.5% of the country's population that is aged between 7 and 14 is employed in some form of work. Just over half of the country's children ever finish primary school. Many children are brought from underdeveloped regions of the country into Addis Ababa where they are forced into areas of work such as shoe shining, vending, mining, and even unpaid labor.
3. The Democratic Republic of the 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.
Most of the work that children are engaged in in Chad is agricultural. Most are employed in the informal sector. Some children in the country may be sold or trafficked against their will to work in areas of the country related to oil production. Sadly, it is not unheard of for children to be forced to be child soldiers. More than half of the country's children is working as per UNICEF data.
In the South Asian country of Bangladesh, children work in garment factories, farming, and in various types of manufacturing. However, the exact nature of their employment is hard to track as it is informal. Like all of the other countries on this list, poverty is the main cause of underaged work in Bangladesh. Despite there being some legislation in place in Bangladesh to protect children, the country will have challenges ahead as it is very susceptible to climate change.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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