Ethics, the Humanistic side

Child Labor & Child Slavery

What DECLAWING entails
Globalization, the light that failed, Guyana
Economics & Quality of Life, Russia & Vietnam
Slavery is Common--Scientific American
Slavery in the U.S.
U.N. Reports on Slavery
Child Labor & Child Slavery
Darfur death count
Palestine, Hamas is the Price of Repression
ZIMBABWE, politics, economics, corruption



From at

What is slavery?

Common characteristics distinguish slavery from other human rights violations. A slave is:

  • forced to work -- through mental or physical threat;
  • owned or controlled by an 'employer', usually through mental or physical abuse or threatened abuse;
  • dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as 'property';
  • physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.

What types of slavery exist today?

Bonded labour affects millions of people around the world. People become bonded labourers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for as little as the cost of medicine for a sick child. To repay the debt, many are forced to work long hours, seven days a week, up to 365 days a year. They receive basic food and shelter as 'payment' for their work, but may never pay off the loan, which can be passed down for generations.

Early and forced marriage affects women and girls who are married without choice and are forced into lives of servitude often accompanied by physical violence.

Forced labour affects people who are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work -- usually under threat of violence or other penalties.

Slavery by descent is where people are either born into a slave class or are from a 'group' that society views as suited to being used as slave labour.

Trafficking involves the transport and/or trade of people -- women, children and men -- from one area to another for the purpose of forcing them into slavery conditions.

Worst forms of child labour affects an estimated 126 million** children around the world in work that is harmful to their health and welfare.





From Anti-Slavery a U.K. organization at

Child labour

Child labour has serious consequences that stay with the individual and with society for far longer than the years of childhood. Young workers not only face dangerous working conditions. They face long-term physical, intellectual and emotional stress. They face an adulthood of unemployment and illiteracy."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Child trafficking from Benin to Gabon -- a photograph gallery

"Child labour has serious consequences that stay with the individual and with society for far longer than the years of childhood. Young workers not only face dangerous working conditions. They face long-term physical, intellectual and emotional stress. They face an adulthood of unemployment and illiteracy."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan

  • Subjection to psychological, verbal, physical and sexual abuse
  • Obliged to work by circumstances or individuals
  • Limited or no pay
  • Work and life on the streets in bad conditions
  • Inability to escape from the poverty cycle -- no access to education




How big is the problem?

  • The International Labour Organization estimates there are
    218 million working children aged between five and 17 (2006)
  • 126 million are estimated to work in the worst forms of child labour -- one in every 12 of the world's five to 17 years olds (2006)
  • 74 million children under 15 are in hazardous work and should be "immediately withdrawn from this work" (2006)
  • 8.4 million children are in slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities (2002)
  • Girls are particularly in demand for domestic work
  • Around 70 per cent of child workers carry out unpaid work for their families

Child trafficking:

Trafficking involves transporting people away from the communities in which they live, by the threat or use of violence, deception, or coercion so they can be exploited as forced or enslaved workers for sex or labour. When children are trafficked, no violence, deception or coercion needs to be involved, it is merely the act of transporting them into exploitative work which constitutes trafficking.

Increasingly, children are also bought and sold within and across national borders. They are trafficked for sexual exploitation, for begging, and for work on construction sites, plantations and into domestic work. The vulnerability of these children is even greater when they arrive in another country. Often they do not have contact with their families and are at the mercy of their employers.

Why do children work?

  • Most children work because their families are poor and their labour is necessary for their survival. Discrimination on grounds including gender, race or religion also plays its part in why some children work.
  • Children are often employed and exploited because, compared to adults, they are more vulnerable, cheaper to hire and are less likely to demand higher wages or better working conditions. Some employers falsely argue that children are particularly suited to certain types of work because of their small size and "nimble fingers".
  • For many children, school is not an option. Education can be expensive and some parents feel that what their children will learn is irrelevant to the realities of their everyday lives and futures. In many cases, school is also physically inaccessible or lessons are not taught in the child's mother tongue, or both.
  • As well as being a result of poverty, child labour also perpetuates poverty. Many working children do not have the opportunity to go to school and often grow up to be unskilled adults trapped in poorly paid jobs, and in turn will look to their own children to supplement the family's income.

Where do children work?

  • On the land
  • In households -- as domestic workers
  • In factories -- making products such as matches, fireworks and glassware
  • On the street -- as beggars
  • Outdoor industry: brick kilns, mines, construction
  • In bars, restaurants and tourist establishments
  • In sexual exploitation
  • As soldiers

The majority of working children are in agriculture -- an estimated 70 per cent. Child domestic work in the houses of others is thought to be the single largest employer of girls worldwide.

Export industries account for only an estimated five per cent of child labour. To see what you can do to help see our Fair Trade, Slave Trade leaflet.

Case Studies from around the world:



Dieusibon -- Haiti
"When I first moved to
Port-au-Prince I cleaned dishes, the house, everything. My 'aunt' would beat me whenever I didn't get water. I worked so hard that my body ached and I couldn't move, but she would beat me if I didn't do more work. Her three children went to school...One day my aunt sent me to fetch water. I refused, so she took a pot of boiling water and threw it at me and burned my face and slammed the hot cooking pot on my hand."

Dieusibon*, 14, ran away and found help from a shelter in Haiti.

Mohen and Nihal -- India

In Pakistan, brothers Mohen and Nihal* began working on carpet looms when they were four and five years old in order to help their family meet their basic needs.

"The health hazards caused to us are that our fingers are trimmed and we have to work all day long. Often for a couple of days in a week, we have to work for the whole day and night.

Mohen often gets miserable and fatigued with the long hours or work and he tries to escape. Then the master weaver keeps a strict watch on him and never lets him move for three or four days.”

Ahmed -- United Arab Emirates
When Ahmed* was five years old he was trafficked from
Bangladesh to the United Arab Emirates to be a camel jockey. He was forced to train and race camels in Dubai for three years.

"I was scared .... If I made a mistake I was beaten with a stick. When I said I wanted to go home I was told I never would. I didn't enjoy camel racing, I was really afraid. I fell off many times. When I won prizes several times, such as money and a car, the camel owner took everything. I never got anything, no money, nothing; my family also got nothing."

Ahmed was only returned home after a Bangladesh official identified him during a visit to Dubai in November 2002. Our local partner Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association provided him with the specialist support and help he needed to resume his life with his family.

*Names changed






What do children want -- child domestic workers speak out

From May to October 2004, Anti-Slavery International and its local partners undertook consultations with more than 450 current and former child domestic workers in nine countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Consultations took place in Benin, Costa Rica, India, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Togo reflecting the reality of child domestic labour in many countries. The majority of those who participated were female -- but more than 100 boys also took part.

Cutting across cultural and language divides, the child domestic workers who were consulted had some clear messages about the best kinds of assistance to protect them from the daily abuse and exploitation that many of them endure. Their common appeal for those who seek to help them are:

  • To provide opportunities for education and training which allow them to move on from domestic work;
  • To assist them in seeking redress from abusive and/or exploitative employers;
  • Not to alienate employers, but to make them part of the solution to their problems;
  • To provide more services which cater specifically to the needs of child domestic workers (since their needs are often quite different from those of other child workers);
  • To develop longer-term interventions, i.e. not to develop services for them and then pull-out after just one or two years;
  • To develop interventions which take into consideration some of the issues which most affect child domestic workers, for example, early pregnancy and the effect of HIV/AIDS;
  • More awareness raising about their situation, and to ensure that this awareness raising goes hand-in-hand with concrete services for child domestic workers;
  • Assistance in accessing government and state infrastructure that can help them; for example, in obtaining birth certificates, enrolling in school, in accessing health care, in locating families and returning home.

Perhaps the strongest message to emerge from the consultations was the importance of those providing assistance to talk to the children themselves about what they need. The work of Anti-Slavery International's partners in this area has shown that the most effective interventions are those which systematically involve child domestic workers themselves in the planning and implementation of their projects and programmes.

Child soldiers

There are about 300,000 child soldiers involved in over 30 areas of conflict worldwide, some even younger than 10 years old. Child soldiers fight on the front line, and also work in support roles; girls are often obliged to be sex slaves or "soldiers' wives". Children involved in conflict are severely affected by their experiences and can suffer from long-term trauma. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force on 12 February 2002, which encourages governments to raise the age of voluntary recruitment into the armed forces and explicitly states that no person under the age of 18 should be sent into battle.

The United Kingdom, which has the lowest minimum recruitment age in Europe at 16, ratified the Optional Protocol on 24 June 2003. The Government, however, added a declaration to reserve the right to send under-18s into hostilities "if there is a genuine military need" or "due to the nature or urgency of the situation". This clause is in direct conflict with the spirit of the Protocol, which urges that states "take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years old do not take a direct part in hostilities".

Action against child labour

International law:

International law forms the basis of our work against the worst forms of child labour. The Conventions of the International Labour Organization, the 1926 and 1956 Slavery Conventions and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are the major tools we use.

  • Article 32 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989):
    "State Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”
  • Convention 182 of the International Labour Organization (1999):
    The main aim of Convention 182 is to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. It stresses that immediate action is needed to tackle the worst exploitation of children, and that measures taken by the authorities should start as soon as the government is able following ratification. The main provisions of the convention are to clarify which situations should be classified as the worst forms of child labour, and to specify what governments must do to prohibit and eliminate them. A copy of the full text of Convention 182 can be found on the
    ILO website

Anti-Slavery International's work on child labour

Anti-Slavery International is not a funding body, but works with organisations around the world which work specifically in the field of child labour.
Anti-Slavery International has worked on child labour since the early 1900s. We have been systematically working on child labour issues since the 1970s, mainly in research and international advocacy. Relevant ILO and UN standards underpin all Anti-Slavery International's work on child labour. We work collaboratively with other NGOs, inter-governmental bodies and trade unions, and focus on the worst forms of child labour and slavery-like practices.

Anti-Slavery International currently works in partnership with local partners on:

  • Developing specific expertise on the subject of children in domestic service. This has involved: publishing hard evidence about the situation of child domestic workers in several countries; developing good practice tools on research and advocacy for use by NGOs and others at national and local levels; consolidating and building an international network of NGOs sharing information and expertise about child domestic work issues; and identifying and promoting good practice in programme interventions, particularly those which best protect child domestic workers from abuse and exploitation.
  • Campaigning for the adoption and implementation of legislation in Gulf States prohibiting under 18s being trafficked and used as camel jockeys, and the prosecution of those involved.
  • Increasing understanding and raising awareness of other issues, including children in the cocoa industry, forced child begging, and the health and psychosocial effects of the worst forms of child labour, particularly children in domestic service.

Anti-Slavery International also founded a Sub-Group on Child Labour of the Geneva-based NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and remains an active member.

Child Slavery Now -- an international conference is to be held on all aspects of child slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE), University of Hull, UK in association with Anti-Slavery International, Gilda Lehrman Center, Yale University and Free the Slaves on November 27-28 2008.

Recent Anti-Slavery International publications on child labour


Original sin is the difference between your pleasures and my pleasures--BF Skinner