UNICEF Report Says 211 Million Children Worldwide Work Full-Time

In February, UNICEF UK released a report on the current status of child labor across the globe. According to the UNICEF report, worldwide about 211 million children ages 5-14 work full-time. UNICEF estimates that 1 in 12 children work in an industry that is hazardous to their health.

Not surprisingly, the area with the highest rate of childhood labor is Africa, where 41 percent of children aged 5 to 14 work. That compares to just 21 percent of 5 to 14-year olds working in Asia and 17 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Due to the difference in total population however, 60 percent of all child laborers are working in Asia.

Worldwide UNICEF estimates that eight million children work in what the International Labor Organization terms “unconditional worst forms” of labor — six million bonded labor (essentially slaves); about 300,000 as soldiers in various armed conflicts around the world; and 1.8 million in the sex industry as prostitutes or the production of pornography.

Most child labor occurs in developing countries, but UNICEF estimates that about 2.4 million children 5 to 14-years old work full-time in the developed world. For example, in the United States anywhere between 300,000 to 800,000 children of Spanish-speaking immigrants are believed to work full-time in farm-related occupations. Similarly in Portugal UNICEF estimates that up to 47,000 school-aged children work full-time in industries such as shoe production rather than attend school.


UN urges action on child labor. The BBC, February 21, 2005.

End Child Exploitation: Child Labour Today. (PDF) UNICEF, 2005.

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