CHILD LABOR COALITION statement on new estimates of child labor

Two 13 year old boys digging for gold in a mine in Mbeya region, Tanzania. (c) 2013

Two 13 year old boys digging for gold in a mine in Mbeya region, Tanzania.


The Child Labor Coalition applauds progress in child labor remediation indicated by new estimates released by the International Labour Organization, but expresses concern that progress in fighting child labor is slowing

September 22, 2017
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820,

(Washington, DC) The Child Labor Coalition (CLC), whose 37 member organizations fight exploitative child labor and represent millions of Americans, welcomed new child labor estimates released Tuesday, September 19th by the International Labour Organization (ILO) which found that the number of children in child labor is 10 percent lower than 2012. The CLC, however, is concerned that the pace of ending child labor has slowed decidedly.

During the period of 2000 to 2012, the ILO found “significant progress” in the reduction of child labor as the estimate of children in child labor fell from 246 million to 168 million—a reduction of 78 million. Progress was pronounced among younger children and girls, who experienced a 40 percent decline in child labor. The greatest portion of that decline occurred in the period 2008-2012, despite a global economic recession.

The new data from the ILO estimates child labor trends from 2012 to 2016 and found that child labor dropped from 168 million to 152 million—16 million fewer children representing a 10 percent drop. Between 2008 and 2012, the level dropped from 215 million to 168 million—47 million children or 22 percent. The most recent data represents a one-third reduction of the prior four years.

Children in the most dangerous forms of work labeled “hazardous labor” dropped from 171 million to 85 million from 2000 to 2012—a reduction of 50 percent. The number of hazardous child workers dropped 30 million between 2008 and 2012 but only 10 million in the last four years—once again, about one-third the level of the prior four years.

Infographic from the ILO.

Infographic from the ILO.









A jointly released estimate by the ILO and the Walk-Free Foundation also released on Tuesday estimates that there are 40 million victims of modern slavery in the world and that about one in four of these victims are children.

The following statement may be attributed to Reid Maki, Director of Child Advocacy for the National Consumers League and Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition:

“The United Nation’s sustainable development goal 8.7 targets the complete elimination of child labor by 2025. If we are to achieve this extremely difficult objective or come close to achieving it, it is imperative that we pick up the pace of child labor reduction significantly.

This means more resources to fight child labor–not less as the Trump Administration is trying to push through as it tries to end US financed child labor remediation projects. At this critical juncture, we must continue to fund the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, which has helped reduce the number of child laborers in the world by nearly 100 million since 2000. But governments alone cannot end child labor, the corporate entities that benefit from labor exploitation must do more to remove child labor from their supply chains. A massive international effort is needed. We must declare war on poverty, provide living wages for adults so they do not feel compelled to have their children work and we must fight to protect the labor rights of all adult workers. Government must administer financial assistance for the neediest families, provide quality education for all children, pass stronger child labor laws and enforce those laws more robustly.




About the Child Labor Coalition

The Child Labor Coalition, which has 37 member organizations, represents consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights and labor rights groups, child advocacy groups, and religious and women’s groups. It was established in 1989, and is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. Its mission is to protect working youth and to promote legislation, programs, and initiatives to end child labor exploitation in the United States and abroad. The CLC’s website and membership list can be found at








Teen Workers May Be Dying to Produce Sugar in Nicaragua

By Deborah Andrews, Contributing Writer

Legal protections for children working in hazardous conditions in Nicaragua are robust on paper, but systematic publicity, implementation and enforcement of the law is missing. Nicaragua has ratified all of the core international covenants in regards to child labor and has passed national laws that clarify in which hazardous environments child labor is prohibited, but the positive impact of these has not become reality.

In 2015, La Isla Foundation produced a report entitled, ‘Cycle of Sickness: A Survey Report on Child Labor in the Nicaraguan Sugarcane Fields of Ingenio San Antonio’ which investigated child labor among Nicaraguan sugarcane workers.

Child sugarcane worker. Photo by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky. Courtesy of Green America.

Child sugarcane worker. Photo by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky. Courtesy of Green America.

Agriculture, particularly the rapidly expanded sugarcane industry, is one of the most hazardous sectors of the economy and child labor within it is widespread.

Nearly four in 10 Nicaraguan children live in poverty.  In rural areas poverty, affects 50% of children. The Teenage pregnancy rate is 23.3%. Only 49% of Primary School students successfully completed 6th Grade and over 72% of the population does not finish Secondary School. Child labor is a major problem in the country and a huge barrier to education, reducing life-time earnings for many individuals. Nicaragua is the only Latin American Country where school is compulsory only up to age 12, as opposed to age 15 in all others.

Although illegal for a minor to be employed in the sugarcane industry, child workers obtain employment through third party contractors with borrowed ID numbers. This precarious power relationship leaves children extremely vulnerable to exploitation. Workers reported various ways their salary could be reduced without cause or explanation.  Most workers were not told how much they would be paid before they started work and had no paperwork documenting their salary – increasing the likelihood of wage manipulation. Many workers were employed through third party contractors and with borrowed ID numbers (which they paid up to 2 days salary to the owner for) and some reported having their money stolen, with the threat of dismissal if they reported the theft.

Interviewing current and former sugarcane workers (ages 12-17 years) La Isla Foundation discovered several negative impacts on children working long-term in sugarcane: Their personal development, their health, their mental health and their access to education is restricted. Children often become introverted and are sadly deprived of the medical and psychological care they ultimately require. Feelings of inadequacy and frustration rob children of hope and the pressure of knowing their family depends on them to earn causes huge suffering.

The hazardous working conditions in sugarcane include an excessive workload (8-15 hours per day), excessive heat (often averaging 100 degrees Fahrenheit), little or no protection equipment, no training and completely inadequate access to water and rest. Interviewees reported symptoms of dizziness from dehydration, extreme fatigue, heat stress, fever and problems with urination. Nicaragua has the highest mortality rate from Kidney Disease within the Americas. In the most severely impacted agricultural areas of Western Nicaragua the incidence of Kidney Disease is an estimated five times that of the national average.

Chronic Kidney Disease of nontraditional causes (know as CKDnT) is the progressive, degenerative, fatal form of Kidney Disease that disproportionately affects agricultural workers due to the toxic mix of their hazardous working environment. It has resulted in the death of an estimated 20,000 workers in Nicaragua. The premature deaths of these primary provider adults often results in children being forced to replace them in sugarcane to make up for the lost family income, further exacerbating the problem of child labor in this industry.

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Today is National Chocolate Day….Something to Think about When You Enjoy Some Chocolate

There’s no doubt that humans love chocolate. Globally, we consume $80 to $100 billion worth of it a year. Despite its popularity and the joy it gives us, there is a dark side to chocolate: cocoa, its main ingredient, is often produced by child labor. The US Department of Labor (USDOL) identifies this as the case in six countries: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

In two of those countries, the Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, USDOL notes there is forced labor on cocoa plantations. There is also evidence that thousands of children have been trafficked to work on cocoa plantations from neighboring countries Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo.

cocoa stat 1Exploitation in chocolate’s supply chain became hotly discussed in 2000 and 2001 when media reports about wide-spread child labor in the West Africa nations of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, where the majority of cocoa was being produced, were published.

Congressional leaders were alarmed about the reports. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced legislation that would require child-labor free chocolate to be recognized with a label. The measure passed the US House of Representatives but it didn’t take long for everyone to realize that wanting child-labor free cocoa and delivering on that promise were two very different things. The nature of cocoa farming made it a very difficult crop to remove child labor from cocoa production. The region features hundreds of thousands of small cocoa farms operating in jungle-like topography. The region is lacking much infrastructure, including thousands of schools that would be needed to educate all the children working in cocoa.

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