Putting a Stop to Child Labour

Education Breaks the Cycle of Poverty

Many people think child labour is something that happens in parts of the world far, far away. But the reality is that child labour exists in many places both near home and abroad.

One hundred sixty million children were subjected to child labour in 2020, where 79 million of these children, or almost half, are in dangerous work environments that affect their health and moral well-being. The amount of children in child labour represents nearly 1 in 10 children. The effects of COVID-19 and pushing more people into poverty will increase the risk of an additional 9 million into child labour by the end of 2022.

What is child labour?

Child labour is any work that is dangerous to children and results in mental, physical, social or moral harm. It also interferes with the ability of children to attend school and hinders the opportunity to gain an education. Child labour also includes strenuous work outside of school that results in students juggling work, school and home to the point that school days are often missed to work at home. School absences are widespread for girls who experience the “triple burden”: school, work, and house chores. 

The dangers of child labour are significant, with the risk of extreme bodily and mental harm or death. Children are subjected to slavery, sexual and economic exploitation. Almost all of these children are out of school, cut off from health care and denied their fundamental rights. This essentially puts a halt to any future a child may have to improve their situation. 

Who is at risk for child labour?

There are several reasons for children to be subjects to child labour:

  • Poverty – Family financial stress or uncertainty usually due to poverty, sudden illness of a caregiver, or job loss of a primary wage earner are the main reasons a child is put at risk for child labour. The extra responsibilities needed to maintain survival or certain living conditions mean priorities such as school are jeopardized.
  • Migrant and refugee children – Children coming from areas of conflict or disasters, such as migrant and refugee children, are at risk of being trafficked, especially if they migrate alone or on different routes from their families. Thirty million children live outside of their country of birth, increasing their risk of trafficking or sexual exploitation. 
  • Gender – The risks look a little different for boys and girls, but both are subjected to breaking the law as child workers. For girls, child labour will look like sexual exploitation. However, it is likely more being enforced into armed forces and being a child soldier for boys.

Child labour robs boys and girls of their childhood and creates more significant gaps of discrimination and social inequities. Children are subjected to long hours of housework and hard labour that prevents them from attending school and harms physical, mental and social growth. 

With COVID-19 increasing the risk of illness, more children are at risk of child labour. COVID-19 has stalled almost 20 years of work and increased the risk of child labour for 9 million children. 

The after-effects of children working in dangerous environments, such as agriculture, mining and construction, can result in exposure to toxic pesticides, poisonous chemicals in mines, exposure to hazards from dangerous machinery and heavy lifting. 

What can be done?

The largest factor for continuing the cycle of child labour is poverty. Poverty from job loss, conflict, or lack of education is the most significant risk factor for a child entering the labour market. Proper education to families and communities on the value of education and finding pathways to improving financial situations and quality of life at home are a significant portion of how to slowly improve the situation of communities where child labour occurs. 

Human Concern International is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of children are protected. This stems from ensuring the livelihood of families is maintained. Here are some things to help decrease the risk:

1. Keep children in school

Children who go to school are not pulled away to hazardous jobs or exploited. Instead, they are gaining the skills they need to feel empowered and the means to move out of poverty. Educating families on why girls should be attending school is a priority. 

The second goal is ensuring safe, high-quality schools for children to attend near their communities. Schools that are too far away or have limited sanitation facilities for girls drive the likelihood that children will stay home. Human Concern International’s Giving Back projects aim to close these gaps through WASH programs, good infrastructure in schools, and mobile schools to remote communities. 

2. Access to healthcare for families 

The likelihood of a primary caregiver or family member losing their job due to illness is reduced when access to quality healthcare and support is put in place. Education on best practices in the home can keep children healthy and avoid absences due to illness.

HCI is working on building healthcare facilities, such as the Mosali hospital in rural India, where 19,643 children in the area can now safely attend school regularly because of healthier families and communities. 

3. Access to food and water

Water is one of the biggest reasons children, especially girls, are pulled out of school. When a community does not have access to clean drinking water, women and girls set off to find it, which takes time out of school and makes the gaps in learning harder and harder to fill. 

Women and girls globally are spending 200 million hours a day looking for water that is safe to drink. Unclean water that is riddled with diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhea means people are missing school or work. This makes it harder to maintain financial stability in many vulnerable communities. Education on clean water practices, such as our WASH programs, help keep communities healthy and thriving. Check out our Water for Life projects to see how your impact can allow children to stay in school rather than search for water. 

End the cycle and contribute to keeping a child in school today. Many children who grow up without an education perpetuate the cycle as adults with their own children. With your generous support, more and more children can grow up with a bright future out of poverty and child labour. 


HCI has been proudly serving the Muslim community for 40 years, and through your generosity and support, our programs are continuously improving the lives of many vulnerable people. Each donation made enables us to further the mission of taking impoverished people from crisis to sustainability.

October 4th, 2021

Human Concern International

Ottawa, Canada

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