In 1999, the ILO estimated that nearly one third of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Malawi were working. According to ILAB, Children typically work in the informal sector, in micro industries that include street-side welding, bicycle repair, and furniture making, and as domestic servants. Children also work in the agricultural sector, often alongside their parents on commercial farms. Child labor is used in crop production, including tea and maize, and on commercial tobacco farms, where the incidence of child labor is particularly high, notes U.S. DOL.

Smoking Kills: Child Labor on Malawi’s Tobacco Farms

Tobacco is Malawi’s top export but at the cost of its children’s health and education.

By Anna Rabin

Landlocked and with approximately 80% of its population living in rural areas, Malawi’s economy is largely structured around its agricultural sector. Agriculture accounts for more than one third of the Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 90% of its export revenues. Tobacco alone comprises over half of Malawi’s exports.

While large-scale cultivation of tobacco has historically been concentrated in the United States, today approximately 75% of the world’s tobacco is harvested in developing countries. Malawi is now one of the world’s five largest producers, and it appeals to cigarette companies “largely due to low tariffs on unmanufactured tobacco imports, cheap labor and lack of regulations.” Read more