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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UCLA: In Harm’s Way – Study Finds Child Labor Protections Lacking in Many Countries

Despite international commitments made by nearly all of the 193 United Nations (UN) member states, dozens of countries lack important legal protections against children doing work that could be harmful or interfere with their education, a study by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center (WORLD) at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health has found.

Published recently in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, WORLD’s analysis revealed that 41 countries do not protect children and youth under the age of 18 from performing hazardous work — a number that rises to 74 when legal loopholes are taken into account — including, for example, such populous nations as Nigeria and Indonesia. In 47 countries, the minimum legal age for employment is below 15, despite evidence that work at an early age is associated with negative health and education outcomes — and when factoring in legal loopholes, that number rises to 85. Among the countries that allow children younger than 15 to work are Bolivia, where it is estimated that one quarter of all 5- to 14-year-olds are performing labor; Benin, where approximately half of all 5- to 14-year-olds are in child labor; and Nepal, where an estimated 37 percent of 5- to 14-year-olds are working.

The study also found that 41 countries do not protect 14-year-olds from working six or more hours on a school day, and 84 countries do not legally guarantee that 16-year-olds have at least 12 hours off from work in a day, leaving children and youth with little time for rest, study, and sleep. An economically diverse group of countries fall into one of these two categories, including Russia, Mexico, Israel, Japan and Zimbabwe.

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