The Numbers Behind Child Labor

Measuring the impact of working children around the world.

Data Points is a new series that explores the world of data visualization, information graphics, and cartography. More on Child Labor in the October 2015 issue of National Geographic Magazine.
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Not all work that children do is exploitive. But child labor is generally defined as work that children are too young to do or that harms their health, slows their development, or keeps them from school.

In the past decade child labor has declined by nearly a third, thanks in part to global awareness. More child laborers are in agriculture than in any other sector. Most work on their families’ farms, so it’s not always clear where to draw the line, says the International Labour Organization’s Yoshie Noguchi.

Still, she warns, keeping kids in jobs instead of school could yield “an uneducated generation that can’t help its country develop.”

Case study: Children and Cocoa in Ghana and Ivory Coast

Ghana and Ivory Coast produce half the wold's cocoa supply
The industry employs a large segment of the countries' worlkforces.

Ghana and the Ivory Coast are low-wage countries, with an average daily income below a half dollar. There, many cocoa farmers earn so little they can’t afford to pay adult workers. Instead, they rely on poorly paid or unpaid children, some of whom are brought in by traffickers from neighboring countries.

Average income per day
The average Ivorian and Ghanaian family has six members.
Labor vs study
Occupation of children 5-17 years old. Many children do both.
Hazards children face on a cocoa farm
Workers often don’t wear proper protection when spraying pesticides.
Sharp tools
When the pods mature, workers cut them from the trees with tools such as machetes.
Heavy loads
After beans are removed from their pods, they’re carried to drying racks.
Long hours in the sun
After the beans are dry, workers pack them into sacks, then load them onto trucks.

But from the price we pay for a chocolate bar, not much ends up in the hands of those harvesting cocoa.

The value of a chocolate bar
Portion that goes to each sector

Sources for graphics:  International Labour Organization; FAO; Oxford Business Group; Interinational Labour Right Forums; William Bertrand and Elke De Buhr, Tulane University;  AFair Trade Advocacy Office