Child labour – what does the data tell us?

At the age when children should be in school and learning, millions end up working – sometimes from need and sometimes by force. For this year’s World Day Against Child Labour (12 June), let’s take a closer look at the disturbing data on child labour.

Despite national laws in most countries, there are still 150 million girls and boys aged 5-14 affected globally. In the world’s poorest countries, the numbers get even more staggering: 1 in 4 children there are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health. Those children also miss out on adequate education, leisure and basic freedoms, violating their rights.

Even worse, many are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments; slavery, or other forms of forced labour; illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution; as well as involvement in armed conflict.

And when global and national averages are disaggregated between the rich and poor, urban and rural areas, or by gender, we can see that some individuals and groups are far more affected than others.

In Guinea-Bissau, for example, while 15% of children from the richest wealth quintile are engaged in child labour, a staggering 51% children from the poorest households are too. In Egypt and Columbia over twice as many boys as girls are affected. In Peru, where a child lives can make all the difference – 61% in rural areas work, whereas, in cities the number of affected children is much lower at 18%.

The interactive dashboard below was created by UNICEF’s Data and Analytics section on the occasion of this year’s World Day Against Child Labour. It shows the latest available data on child labour from UNICEF global databases (2014) and draws on data from Demographic Household Surveys (DHS), Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), and other nationally representative surveys conducted in countries between 2005─2012. This data also available in the latest State of the World’s Children Report 2014.

Explore the interactive data visualization yourself:

Links & further reading:


Karoline J. Hassfurter is a Communications Specialist working in the Data and Analytics Section, Division of Data, Research and Policy, UNICEF New York.

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