Child labour and education in the Third World

Distribution of child labour in the world

Around the world, approximately 250 Million children have to work. The highest proportion of child labour can be found in developing countries, as poverty is widerspread. On the map below there are shown the different countries of the world and their extent of child labour in percent. Especially in Mali, Niger, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nepal and Bhutan there are particulary high numbers of working children (more than 40%).
Distribution of child labour in the world
Map from
(by historicair)

Different types of child labour

Most working children (69%) work in the agriculture, 22% in industry and 9% in the service sector. The worst types of child labour are seen in child prostitution, child slavery (bonden child labour), children involved in illegal activities and children in hazardous work. In general we can differentiate between two types of child labour:
  1. Non-bonded child labour: This kind of work is defined as child labour in which a child is not working to pay off a debt that they or their family owe the the employer of the child. They are "forced“ to work for their survival in very poor conditions.
  2. Bonded child labour: Bonded child labour occurs when a poor familly needs money to pay for something (doctor's bill, food,…). If they do not have enough money to pay by themselfs they may need a loan. There are many employers who know how to take advantages of this situation. They will pay the amount the family needs in exchange of the servitude of a child. The children now have to work against the debt taken by themselfs or some of their family members. They usually work under conditions restraining their freedom and development and making them vulnerable to physical and other forms of abuse. Further it is common that they do not have any rights and must do whatever is asked of them til they could work off their debt with their wages. Unfortunately, employers generally charge absurdly high interest rates and have low wages. As a result it becomes impossible for the children to work off the debt and they will have to stay a very long time of their life.

Reasons for child labour

There are mainy reasons why child labour is a big problem in developing countries. The most important ones are:
  • material poverty: children must provide for their family
  • bad education: they do not have another choice but do hard work for bad wages
  • bad health care: people must take out a loan for paying the bill or the medicine
  • corruption: because public officers and the local authorities are often corrupt there are no charges against the employers of child labourers
  • profit: working children are cheaper than adult workers
  • meanness: people around the world want to have cheap products. As a result employers need to produce as cheaply as possible

Consequences of child labour

The consequences of child labour are dramatic. If children have to work they usually don’t have the time to attend a school. They get a worse eduaction and will have problems to find a good job later on. They feel the consequences for the rest of their life. For example they can just do badly paid work and will have problems to rise in better positions. Further they cannot develop normal self-confidence. In addition employers often also endanger the health of their working children. As a result such children often fall chronically ill. At least there are also many children who never reach an older age because they die because of an accident.


Child labour continues to be a big problem in our world. Especially in developing countries many children work. The main reasons for this can be found in the poverty of such areas. As a result they will never get an education and do not have the chance to escape from this misery. To stop this vicious circle the government must invest in education. It has to become possible that everybody can visit school so that every child will have the chance to find a good job later on. But also the developed countries can contribute something to the solution of the problem. As their people are often rich and usually buy products of developing countries, they should change their habits. Consumers should pay attention that the products are produced under fair condition and without the use of child labour by considering labels such as Max Havelaar. As a result the articles could become a bit more expensive, but in general it could make a big difference for a better world.

Education in the Third World

Classroom in Zimbabwe (from, byRama)
Worldwide more than 75 million children cannot visit primary school. More than a half of these are girls. Only two-thirds of all children who started basic school in Africa stay to the end. Indigenous or rural, poor or handicapped children as well as AIDS-orphans rarely get a good apprenticeship.

Furthermore the quality of the educational systems is often poor. As a result many graduates cannot read, write or calculate properly. Between 30 and 50 percent of school leaving children lack these basic competencies. Approximately 11 percent of young people between 15 and 24 years cannot read or write. Worldwide there are about 776 million illiterates, 98 percent of them in the Third World.

There are different reasons why the situation of education in the Third World is so bad. The most important ones are described below. Further also the governance has his influence. In developing countries the governance is often bad: The competence for organisation and management is usually lacking and corruption is a daily problem.
  1. The budget for the basic education is often insufficient.
  2. Especially in rural areas there are not enough peimary schools. Girls often are not allowed to visit such schools, because their parents are worried about their safety. Sometimes working conditions for the teachers are unacceptable: Many of them have to teach in two or three shifts a day. Despite long working days and the huge classes, wages very low. Finally the teachers are often poorly trained themselves.
  3. Curricula sometimes are ill suited to the needs of children. Cultural and religious aspects are not considered well enough. Teaching method is usually not very innovative: Team work, independent learning, critical and problem-solving thinking, but also procurement of life skills should be advanced.
  4. Many families in developing countries cannot afford school fees, transport, books and school uniforms. For this reason children often can not visit school or must drop out after some years.
  5. Many children, instead of going to school, are forced to work.

Without proper schooling and qualified employees a sustainable economic development is not possible. People who would be important to solve problems in the economy, the state and the society of its country do not exist - yet again a vicious circle.


The educational system in the Third World usually does not function well enough. There are not enough schools and teachers. Many families cannot afford sending their children to school. As a result governments should invest more in education but may lack the necessary funds. Teaching methods and teacher training should be improved. Schooling, or better schoolng, is the key to a better future of the Third World.