About child labour
General overview Tobacco focus


It is difficult to know exactly how many children throughout the world are employed in some form of economic activity. The latest estimates (2004) by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) put the number of working children between the ages of 5 to 17 years-old at 218 million.

Among them, 126 million children - one in every twelve children in the world - are still subjected to the worst forms of child labour which endangers the child's physical, mental or moral well-being.

These figures represent an improvement in comparison to the previous available data: in 2000 the number of child labourer was estimated at 246 million and 176 million of these children were engaged in activities defined as the "worst forms of child labour". These new estimations demonstrate an encouraging trend. The number of child labourers decreased by 11%, and the number of children in hazardous work decreased by 26%.

However, regional disparities are very pronounced. While Latin America and the Caribbean made, between 2000 and 2004, the greatest progress (less than 2/3 of their children working), in Sub-Saharan Africa the level of child labour is still alarmingly high. In this region, the incidence rate of child labour is 26%.

Among these 218 million children concerned it is impossible to know the exact number of child tobacco workers worldwide, although the major tobacco growing countries are often those with child labour records. Determining the extent of the problem is one of the aims of the ECLT Foundation.

Please find below a table which illustrates child labour as defined for the purpose of global estimates.

From "Every child counts, new global estimates on child labour", ILO 2002
Age groups
Forms of work

Non-hazardous work
(in non-hazardous industries & occupations and < 43 hrs/week)

Worst forms of child labour
Light work
(<14 hrs/week)
Regular work
(> 14 hrs/week and 43 hrs/week)
Hazardous work
(in specified hazardous industries & occupations plus 43 hrs/week in other industries and occupations)
Unconditional worst forms
(trafficked children, children in forced and bonded labour, armed conflict, prostitution and pornography and illicit activities)

The white areas are considered as child labour in need of elimination as per ILO Conventions no. 138 and 182.

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