Child labor is work that harms children or keeps them from attending school. Around the world and in the U. S., growing gaps between rich and poor in recent decades have forced millions of young children out of school and into work. The International Labor Organization estimates that 215 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 currently work under conditions that are considered illegal, hazardous, or extremely exploitative. Underage children work at all sorts of jobs around the world, usually because they and their families are extremely poor. Large numbers of children work in commercial agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, mining, and domestic service. Some children work in illicit activities like the drug trade and prostitution or other traumatic activities such as serving as soldiers.
Working conditions that are safe and healthy for adults may not be safe and healthy for children because of their physical differences. Risks may be greater for children at various stages of development and may have long-term effects. Factors that may increase the health, safety, and developmental risk factors for children include
Unions and grassroots groups are increasingly recognizing direct connections between worker rights and the fight against child labor. Recognizing child labor as a violation of children's and workers' rights, trade unions are joining with families and community organizations to combat child labor, to move children out of work and into school, and to support core labor standards. Historically and in today’s global economy: