In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Child Labor

  • Introduction
  • History
  • International Labor Organization Conventions and Efforts
  • Federal Agency Regulations and Efforts IN THE UNITED STATES
  • Non-profit Organization Efforts
  • Research in United States: Nationwide Scope, Agriculture
  • Research in the United States: Nationwide Scope, Agriculture
  • Research in the United States: Nationwide Scope, Non-Agricultural Non-Fatal Injuries and Illnesses
  • Research in the United States: State and Local-Level Surveys
  • Research in the United States: State/Local Epidemiology 1980–1999
  • Research in the United States: State/Local Epidemiology 2000–2020
  • Research in the United States: Incident (Injury and Illness) Epidemiologic Surveillance
  • Research in Canada
  • Research in Latin America
  • Research in Central America and Mexico
  • Research in South America
  • Research in the Asian-Pacific Region
  • Research in South and southeast Asia Excluding India
  • Research in India
  • Research in Africa
  • Research in Europe
  • Research in the Eastern Mediterranean Region
  • Research with Global Scope

Public Health Child Labor
Derek Shendell, Juhi Aggarwal
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 April 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0208


Globally, around 200 million children, or minors seventeen years old or younger, are involved in child labor in various industries (including food service, manufacturing, and construction), and about 20 million children are involved in forced labor. In the United States, consistently federal agencies conservatively estimate about 200,000 children are injured at work each year. Among many potential activities available to older children outside of school, paid and unpaid work are two common legal options. Child labor helps produce consumer products and food used by citizens in their communities as local subsistence, or services, and helps supply global markets. Thus, in daily work of minors—a known susceptible, vulnerable population group—exposures occur to acute and chronic safety and health risks due to multiple agents indoors, outdoors, and in semi-enclosed areas. Working children may miss formal education, play, and other opportunities for healthy social and personal physical, mental, and emotional development. This article summarizes specific physical safety and health aspects of child labor based on peer-reviewed literature worldwide through January 2020. Sections of this article—after highlighting references providing a brief historical overview—purposely summarize research on adverse outcomes (injury and illness) of child labor by regions of the world and for specific countries where relatively more peer-reviewed research has been published to date. This article does not cover details of other important economic, social, and psychological aspects of child labor, topics for which other review articles and book chapters exist. This article can help public health researchers and practitioners understand more about child labor and associated injury and illness.


The papers cited in this section describe the history and systematic reasons for child labor. Radfar, et al. 2018 described child labor and physical and emotional harm. Naeem, et al. 2011 described the relationship between poverty and child labor. Clark 2011 described the decline of child labor and impacts of globalization and economics. Finally, Phillips, et al. 2014 discussed the underlying reasons of child labor.

  • Clark, R. 2011. Child labor in the world polity: Decline and persistence, 1980–2000. Social Forces 89.3: 1033–1056.

    DOI: 10.1353/sof.2011.0028

    This paper described how child labor rates declined over 25 percent between 1980 and 2000. This study discussed different international organizations opposed to child labor and assessed the impact of economics and globalization on child labor.

  • Naeem, Z., F. Shaukat, and Z. Ahmed. 2011. Child labor in relation to poverty. International Journal of Health Services 5.2: 48.

    This cross-sectional study suggested a relationship between child labor and poverty in Pakistan. This study also described the distribution of reported jobs children worked.

  • Phillips, N., R. Bhaskaran, D. Nathan, and C. Upendranadh. 2014. The social foundations of global production networks: Towards a global political economy of child labour. Third World Quarterly 35.3: 428–446.

    DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2014.893486

    This paper described the reasons child labor exists in New Delhi, India, and what social dynamics are present to allow it. The authors focused on the example of the garment industry, to explore the social and economic dynamics behind child labor in the region.

  • Radfar, A., S. A. A. Asgharzadeh, F. Quesada, and I. Filip. 2018. Challenges and perspectives of child labor. Indian Journal of Psychiatry 27.1: 17–20.

    DOI: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_105_14

    This paper described the systematic reasons for child laborers (cheap labor, less likely to strike, socioeconomic disparities, religious beliefs, etc.) and the physical and emotional harm labor has done to children.

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