Entries by CLC Member

US Should Protect Young Farmworkers–Lawmakers, Labor Department Need to Act

Margaret Wurth Senior Researcher, Children’s Rights Division [This piece originally appeared on at www.hrw.org on June 13, 2022] As the world marks another World Day Against Child Labor, US leaders should commit to ending child labor at home. Globally, countries have reduced the number of children involved in child labor – defined as work performed by children below the minimum age of employment or children under age 18 engaged in hazardous work – from 245 million in 2000 to 160 million in 2020. Meanwhile, US protections for child farmworkers are as weak as ever. Under US law, children can work in agriculture from younger ages, for longer hours, and in more hazardous conditions than children working in any other sector. Today, it is legal for 12-year-old children to work unlimited hours on a farm of any size, as long as they have a parent’s permission and they don’t miss school. Children that young cannot legally work in any other sector in the US. In agriculture, children at age 16 can do work considered “hazardous” by the US Labor Secretary, while in every other sector children must be 18. Lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation to close these gaps. The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE Act) would amend US labor law to raise the minimum hiring age in agriculture to […]

Surging Child Labor Demands Government Action New Global Numbers Show Backsliding Even Before Covid-19 Pandemic

  By Jo Becker Advocacy Director, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch   Ahead of the World Day Against Child Labor this weekend, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have just released shocking new figures. They estimate that 160 million children were engaged in child labor in 2020. This is 8.4 million more children than since the last estimate issued in 2016, and the first time in two decades that the numbers have increased. Previously, countries globally had made impressive strides, reducing child labor by nearly 40 percent between 2000 and 2016. Alarmingly, these numbers pre-date the Covid-19 pandemic, which is forcing even more children into exploitative and dangerous child labor. Human Rights Watch, Friends of the Nation, and the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights recently interviewed dozens of children in Ghana, Nepal, and Uganda to document the impact of the pandemic on their lives. They told us how their parents lost jobs when businesses closed, couldn’t get to markets to sell their goods, or lost customers during lockdowns. Their schools closed, and with little or no government assistance, the children felt they had no choice but to work to help their families survive.The children worked at brick kilns, carpet factories, gold mines, stone quarries, fisheries, in construction, and in agriculture. Others sold […]

152 Million Reasons to End Child Labor by year 2025

By CLC-member Timothy Ryan of Solidarity Center By Timothy Ryan* An African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child, but one can also say that it takes the whole world to protect one child. Children today are faced with increasing challenges. When children should be playing, studying and enjoying their short yet foundational period of childhood they are instead subjected to exploitation, violence, hunger and various forms of slavery.  The international community for decades has been making efforts to reduce inequalities and injustice for children, with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) being the most recent global goals that the world has committed to achieve. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We urge the governments to continue investing at least 6% of their GDP in children’s education and provide vulnerable families and their children with social protection. –Timothy Ryan, Global March Against Child Labour ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The goal that is closest to my heart and has been the driving force for me and my organization, Global March Against Child Labour is the SDG Target 8.7, which calls upon the world to end all forms of child labor by 2025. With only 5 years to achieve this compelling and challenging goal, today we are faced with yet another obstacle in our progress to end child labor – the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought the […]

In a Pandemic Year, Some Good News for Children–10 Points of Progress in 2020

By Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch     This year has been devastating for children. The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the education of 1.5 billion students, pushed an estimated 150 million additional children into poverty, left many without caregivers, and increased child labor, child marriage, and violence in the home. But despite the enormous hardships, the year has also brought some good news for kids. As we finish the year, here are 10 areas of progress from 2020: Greece ended its longstanding practice of detaining unaccompanied migrant children in jail cells. Both Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe committed to ending the exclusion of pregnant girls and teenage mothers from school. The US states of Minnesota and Pennsylvania both enacted laws to ban all child marriage before age 18. Five more countries – Estonia, Malawi, Seychelles, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda – committed to protecting schools during armed conflict by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, bringing the total to 106 endorsers. A hospital in Chicago pledged to become the first in the United States to stop performing medically unnecessary surgeries on children born with intersex traits. FIFA imposed a lifetime ban on the Haitian soccer federation president for systematic sexual abuse against female players, including girls. South Sudan signed a comprehensive action plan to end violations against children in armed conflict. Saudi Arabia announced that it would end executions of offenders for crimes committed before the age of 18. Japan and Seychelles banned all corporal […]

Convention 182, Historic Commitment to End Worst Forms of Child Labor, Is Universally Ratified

Governments Pledge to Root Out Hazardous Work, but More Protections Needed by Margaret Wurth [Originally published at www.hrw.org on August 5, 2020]   MargaretWurtThe world reached an important milestone this week in the fight to end child labor. All 187 member countries of the International Labour Organization (ILO) have now ratified ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, committing to eliminate hazardous work endangering children around the world. Tonga’s ratification of the convention yesterday marks the first time in history that a labor convention has achieved universal ratification. Ratification of ILO treaties catalyzes national reforms, and translates to concrete change on the ground. Global commitment to end child labor is sorely needed, as experts warn the Covid-19 pandemic could reverse decades of progress. Widespread school closures and the economic hardships families are facing mean more children are at risk of missing out on education and getting involved in dangerous work. In May, UNICEF and Save the Children reported that without urgent action 672 million children could be living in poverty by the end of 2020, an increase of 15 percent in one year. I’ve spoken to many children involved in hazardous child labor. Children in the Philippines relayed stories of diving into cold, deep, waters to mine for gold, breathing through an oxygen tube clenched between their teeth, and using toxic mercury to process gold they found. In Indonesia, the United States, […]

Child Labor in U.S. Tobacco: Why Can’t We Make it Stop?

By Kendra Moesle, Program Communications Coordinator Children in the Fields Campaign (CIFC) is an active member of the Child Labor Coalition, which strives to combat child labor here in the U.S. and abroad.  Also partners with us on that coalition is the 100 Million Campaign:  a worldwide movement led by kids advocating for kids, whose call to action is “for a world where all young people are free, safe, and educated”. In the U.S., the local chapter of the 100 Million Campaign has taken on child labor in tobacco, something that has been a problem in the U.S. for a long time due to the inequality of U.S. labor laws.  When the 100 Million Campaign’s youth-led National Planning Committee met and discussed the number of issues before them, Executive Director of the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation US, Anjali Kochar, says they felt this was “the moment in time” when something could finally be done about child labor in tobacco.  In conversations that the campaign hosted in schools across the country, this seemed to be the most galvanizing issue to young people, simply because “it just didn’t add up.”  How is it illegal for minors to buy tobacco products, kids wondered, and yet it can still be perfectly legal for them to manufacture the stuff?   Group picture of Child Labor Coalition members on the steps of AFT, following a February […]

Children Working in Terrifying Conditions in US Agriculture — New Research Shows Child Farmworkers Unprepared for Workplace Dangers

By Margaret Wurth Senior Researcher, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch (HRW) New research published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reinforces just how dangerous agricultural work is for children in the United States – and how unprepared most are for what they face in the fields. More US child workers die in agriculture than in any other industry. Every day, 33 children are injured while working on US farms. And they receive frighteningly little safety training, making their work in demanding environments even more dangerous. Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine interviewed 30 child farmworkers, ages 10 to 17, and published their findings in two articles that describe how children are pressured to work quickly, with little control over their hours or the nature of their work.   The children interviewed feared having their pay docked or being fired if they couldn’t keep up. They received little – if any – safety training. One 14-year-old worker said: “When you’re chopping with the machete, they say, ‘Oh, be careful, like, to not hurt yourself,’ but that’s basically it.” Children I’ve interviewed for Human Rights Watch investigations of child labor in US tobacco farming had similar experiences, working long hours in extreme heat with virtually no safety training. One 15-year-old child worker told me his mom – also a farmworker – was hospitalized after being sprayed with pesticides, but even then, his […]

More US Child Workers Die in Agriculture Than in Any Other Industry

New US Government Report Highlights Dangers Caused by Weak Child Labor Laws By Margaret Wurth   More than half of work-related deaths among children in the US occur in agriculture, according to a new US government report published this week. This happens despite the fact that farms employ less than six percent of child workers, highlighting the devastating consequences of weak laws and regulations that don’t properly protect child farmworkers. The report was prepared by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) at the request of congressional representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard from California and Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut. My colleagues and I have interviewed hundreds of child farmworkers in the US in recent years. They’ve told us harrowing stories of working long hours in extreme heat, using sharp tools and heavy machinery, and climbing to dangerous heights with nothing to protect them from falling. Many are exposed to toxic pesticides, and on tobacco farms, children face the added risk of being exposed to nicotine, a neurotoxin. Under federal labor law, children at the age of 12 can legally work unlimited hours on farms of any size with parental permission, as long as they don’t miss school. There is no minimum age for children to work on small farms or family farms. By law, children working in agriculture can do jobs at age […]

Report Traces Goods Made with Child Labor to 76 Countries

Of the products we use, wear, or consume every day, how many are made with child labor? Perhaps quite a few. A new report from the US Department of Labor identifies 148 different consumer goods produced with child or forced labor around the world. The list includes clothing, beef, sugar, bricks, coffee, and other products originating from 76 countries. Gold tops the list. The report found that in at least 21 countries, children help mine gold, climbing into unstable shafts, carrying and crushing heavy loads of ore, and often using toxic mercury to process the gold. My colleagues and I have seen how dangerous this work can be, documenting the risks child miners face in Ghana, Philippines, Tanzania, and Mali. Tobacco produced with child labor originates from at least 16 countries, placing it in the report’s top five. Child tobacco workers often labor in extreme heat, are exposed to dangerous pesticides, and risk nicotine poisoning from handling tobacco plants. In our investigations, children in the United States, Indonesia, and Zimbabwe have described nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness while working in tobacco fields. Governments, companies, and consumers share responsibility to end child labor. Governments should monitor and enforce their labor laws and provide children with good-quality, free education. For children old enough to work, both governments and companies should ensure their jobs do not risk anyone’s health or safety. Companies should […]