Oh Great, Child Labor Is On the Rise

Forced child labor is on the rise according to a new report from risk analysis firm Maplecroft. The UK firm examined 197 countries and found that around 40 percent were classified under the “extreme risk” category. Not surprisingly, conflict-torn countries and authoritarian regimes topped the list. Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Burundi, Pakistan and Ethiopia round out the top 10, though an additional 66 countries fall into the extreme risk category.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), child labor is “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.” The ILO estimates there are around 215 million children laborers, and of these, around 115 million are thought to be involved in hazardous work, such as mining. The number of those between the ages of 5-14 and engaged in child labour is estimated by UNICEF at around 150 million.

The rapid increase in child labor from 2010 to 2011, says Maplecroft is in large part because of increased instability around the world. As conflict and trauma displace families and disrupt communities, children are less likely to be able to attend school and are more likely to be relied upon to help financially support families. And as the global financial crisis continues, children are helping families stay afloat by working and picking up part of the financial burden.

Where does the U.S. rank on child labor? The United States is considered a “medium risk” country, while Canada, Australia, Norway, Finland, Germany, Britain, France, Portugal  and Sweden all rank as “low risk” nations. [Maplecroft]