Child Labor Webquest

Child Slave Labor


Child Slave Labor

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated that 250 million children between the ages of five and fourteen work in developing countries-at least 120 million on a full time basis. Sixty-one percent of these are in Asia, 32 percent in Africa, and 7 percent in Latin America. Most working children in rural areas are found in agriculture; many children work as domestics; urban children work in trade and services, with fewer in manufacturing and construction. Child labor ranges from four-year-olds tied to rug looms to keep them from running away, to seventeen-year-olds helping out on the family farm.

Children who work long hours, often in dangerous and unhealthy conditions, are exposed to lasting physical and psychological harm. Working at rug looms, for example, has left children disabled with eye damage, lung disease, stunted growth, and a susceptibility to arthritis as they grow older. Children making silk thread in India dip their hands into boiling water that burns and blisters them, breath smoke and fumes from machinery, handle dead worms that cause infections, and guide twisting threads that cut their fingers. Children harvesting sugar cane in El Salvador use machetes to cut cane for up to nine hours a day in the hot sun; injuries to their hands and legs are common and medical care is often not available. They are exposed to dangerous pesticides, and made to work with too dangerous tools.

Denied an education and a normal childhood, some children are confined and beaten, reduced to slavery. Some are denied freedom of movement-the right to leave the workplace and go home to their families. Some are abducted and forced to work without pay.

Bonded labor takes place when a family receives an advance payment (sometimes as little as U.S. $15) to hand a child-boy or girl-over to an employer. In most cases the child cannot work off the debt, nor can the family raise enough money to buy the child back. The workplace is often structured so that "expenses" and/or "interest" are deducted from a child's earnings in such amounts that it is almost impossible for a child to repay the debt. In some cases, the labor is generational-that is, a child's grandfather or great-grandfather was promised to an employer many years earlier, with the understanding that each generation would provide the employer with a new worker-often with no pay at all.

Bonded labor is outlawed by the 1956 U.N. Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery. See also International Legal Standards on Forced and Bonded Labor.
(from Human Rights Watch:


Your Task

Read the article "What it Takes to Stop Slavery".

1. According to this article, what is the current definition of a slave?

In groups, research the campaigns of the United Nation's International Labor Organization to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in one of the following nations:

El Salvador
West Africa

Choose one of the above countries and respond to the following questions:

2. Based on the country you have chosen, what products are children involved in producing?

3. Is this product used in the U. S. (how and where)?

4. What kind of work must the children do / perform (list three things)?

5. What groups / governments are trying to do something about the problem?

6. Is there any progress being made? (describe)

7. What can citizens of the United States do to help eliminate child labor / slavery around the world?



International: Child Labor History and Laws
International: Child Labor Overview
International: Bonded Child Labor

El Salvador: Child Labor on Sugar Plantations
El Salvador: Washington Post
El Salvador: Organic Consumers Org.

Goodweave: Saving Children from Rug factories
Nepal: Child Labor Overview
Nepal: Anti-Slavery Society

Tanzania: U.S. Dept. of Labor
Tanzania: World Net Daily
Tanzania: Child Labor Overview

West Africa: BBC report on Cocoa Industry
West Africa: National Geographic
West Africa: Child Labor in Cocoa Industry


© 2009 update
webquest by Alicia Cornelio and Nancy Hammerstrom: contact us