Box 1-1

Definition of Child Labor

“‘Child labor’ under international standards means all work performed by a person below the age of 15. It also includes all work performed by a person below the age of 18 in the following practices: (A) All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale or trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom, or forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; (B) the use, procuring, or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic purposes; (C) the use, procuring, or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs; and (D) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children. The work referred to in subparagraph (D) is determined by the laws, regulations, or competent authority of the country involved, after consultation with the organizations of employers and workers concerned, and taking into consideration relevant international standards. This definition will not apply to work specifically authorized by national laws, including work done by children in schools for general, vocational or technical education or in other training institutions, where such work is carried out in accordance with international standards under conditions prescribed by the competent authority, and does not prejudice children’s attendance in school or their capacity to benefit from the instruction received.”

Department of Labor, Office of the Secretary. Notice of Procedural Guidelines for the Development and Maintenance of the List of Goods From Countries Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor; Request for Information. Federal Register / Vol. 72, No. 247 / Thursday, December 27, 2007, p. 73378.

Forced labor is also a concern.6 According to the ILO, “Forced labour is present in some form on all continents, in almost all countries, and in every kind of economy.”7 According to the most recent ILO estimates available (2005): “Today, at least 12.3 million people are victims of forced labour worldwide. Of these, 9.8 million are exploited by private agents, including more than 2.4 million in forced labour as a result of human trafficking. Another 2.5 million are forced to work by governments or by rebel military groups.”8 Using a different definition, Free the Slaves has estimated that there are currently 27 million people in slavery.9


For a general discussion of forced labor, see for example “Forced Labor in the Global Economy: A Report of Discussions,” Program on Human Rights and Justice, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 14, 2005, available at: (accessed September 28, 2009). Kevin Bales. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004. Kevin Bales. Understanding Global Slavery: A Reader. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005. See also the websites of Free the Slaves at (accessed September 28, 2009) and the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour at (accessed September 28, 2009).


 ILO. Eradication of Forced Labour—General Survey Concerning the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105). Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, Report III (Part Ib), ILC, 96th Session, Geneva, 2007.


ILO, A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour. Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. ILC, 93rd Session, Report I (B). Geneva: ILO, 2005, p. 10.

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