Child labour in Africa

The 2016 Global Estimates of Child Labour indicate that one-fifth of all African children are involved in child labour, a proportion more than twice as high as in any other region. Nine per cent of African children are in hazardous work, again highest of all the world’s regions.

Africa has the largest number of child labourers; 72.1 million African children are estimated to be in child labour and 31.5 million in hazardous work.
Progress against child labour appears to have stalled in Africa. Child labour went up in Sub-Saharan Africa over the 2012 to 2016 period, in contrast to continued progress elsewhere in the world, and despite the targeted policies implemented by African governments to combat child labour. It is likely that the retrogression was driven in important part by broader economic and demographic forces acting against government efforts, although this matter would require further research. The Africa region has also been among those most affected by situations of state fragility and crisis, which in turn heighten the risk of child labour.

Worldwide, the agriculture sector accounts for by far the largest share of child labour. In Africa, agriculture accounts for 85 per cent of all child labour and for 61.4 million children in absolute terms. Child labour in agriculture relates primarily to subsistence and commercial farming and livestock herding; and it is often hazardous in its nature and in the circumstances it is carried out. Of the remaining children in child labour in Africa, 8.1 million (11 per cent) are found in the services sector and 2.7 million (4 per cent) are found in industry. Most child labour is unpaid, and most children in child labour are not in an employment relationship with a third party employer, but rather work on family farms and family enterprises.