Seventy per cent of working children are in agriculture–over 132 million girls and boys aged 5-14 years old. These children are working on farms and plantations, often from sun up to sun down, planting and harvesting crops, spraying pesticides, and tending livestock on rural farms and plantations. Explore the map above to find out more about this subject.

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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For Love of Chocolate…On World Chocolate Day, We Look at the Human Cost Behind 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.

A 13-year-old cocoa worker in West Africa. [From the Robin Romano Archives of the University of Connecticut]/

A 13-year-old cocoa worker in West Africa. [From the Robin Romano Archives of the University of Connecticut]/

Exploitation 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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10 Facts About the Latest Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas from Tulane University:

[On July 30, 2015, Tulane University researchers released their latest study — “Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas”– we present highligths here written and compiled by Mary Donovan, contributing writer to the CLC.]

  1. Child labor in cocoa production in West Africa is increasing. The total numbers of children in cocoa production, child labor in cocoa production, and hazardous work by children in cocoa production in West Africa all increased from 2009/10 to 2013/14. In 2013/14 there were 2,260,407 children working in cocoa production in West Africa. 1,303,009 of those children work in Cote d’Ivoire and 957,398 work in Ghana.
  1. A plan to eliminate child labor in the industry exists. Fifteen years ago, representatives of the international cocoa industry signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol “to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa sectors of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.” The Protocol provides a framework for accountability and outlines action steps. The Ministers of Labor from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire signed a Declaration of Joint Action to support the implementation of the Protocol in 2010. In spite of this initiative, child labor in cocoa production in West Africa has increased.
  1. Cote d’Ivoire experienced an especially large growth. The numbers of children working in cocoa production increased by 59%, the number of children doing child labor in cocoa production increased by 48%, and the number of children doing hazardous work in cocoa production grew by 46%. Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest cocoa producer.
  1. The number of children working in cocoa production fell slightly in Ghana.
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NCL’s 2015 Five Most Dangerous Jobs For Teens:

Tips for Teen Workers, Parents, and Employers to Help Working Teens Stay Safe in the Work Place

 The National Consumers League’s Guide, Updated Annually

Report author: Reid Maki,

Director of Child Labor Advocacy

National Consumers League


Introduction: Although fatality rates are dropping, we continue to lose too many children at work

No parent thinks their child will be hurt at work, but according to the Children’s Safety network, about every 9 minutes a U.S. teen is hurt on the job.

In July 2014 in Duvall, Washington, 19-year-old Bradley Hogue was killed by a rotating auger—a metal device like a giant corkscrew while working inside the bark-blower truck. In January this year, the state of Washington assessed employer Pacific Topsoils with penalties totaling $199,000, noting that employers were regularly exposed to three mechanical hazards that could seriously injure or kill them.

In October 2014, an Idaho teen, 18-year-old Jeremy McSpadden, Jr., of Spokane Valley, Washington portraying a zombie at a Halloween haunted hayride died tragically. The boy, wearing a mask, emerged from a corn maze, stumbled on uneven ground, lost his footing and fell under the rear wheel of the bus. He was killed instantly.

In May of 2015, Kyle Sing, 15, was putting in a fence on his family’s farm in Eldridge, Missouri when he became caught in the auger he was using to dig post holes. A family friend described the accident on Facebook: “The auger jumped out of the of the hole and grabbed a metal cattle panel, which grabbed Kyle and wrapped him, the panel and the T post all together.”… Read the rest