Child Labor Around the World

 Back to Labor History

Source: Dreams, Portraits of the World's Working Children by David L. Parker, Labor's Heritage, Vol. 6, No. 1


Regrettable as it is, the problem of child labor in the US pales in comparison with much of the rest of world's situation. In 1972, the International Labor Organization estimated that there were 150 million children working worldwide. At that time, estimates presented by other organizations were four to five-fold greater. Today (1993) there are over 200 million children who labor.

The present global economy exacerbates the plight of children. Unlike the children photographed by Lewis Hine over 80 years ago, child workers today are linked by rapidly changing global trade networks. Children are frequent victims of regional boom and bust economies and accompanying poor work conditions. There is little doubt that when one region imposes sanctions against the exploitation of children, another, poorer region will, if possible, fill the vacancy. This is particularly true of garment manufacturing or other industries that are easily moved from location to another.

Below are children carrying leather goods to a roof for drying and stretching, Dhaka,Bangladesh, January 10, 1993. David Parker, photographer wrote at the time,"In Dhaka, I visited several garment factories, but the owners refused to allow me to photograph children. Eventually, an acquaitance took me to a factory where I spent several days photographing children tanning leather. It was one of the dirtiest industries imaginable where young workers spent the day in tanning solutions, their skin unprotected from the chemicals."