Child labour in Asia

Kinderarbeid in Azië Terre des Hommes

Child labour is very common in countries such as Bangladesh, CambodiaIndia, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines. About 41 million children work. For children between the ages of 5 and 11, this means they have a paid job for at least one hour per week, or work in the household for over 28 hours a week. Children between the ages of 12 and 14 work in a paid job for at least fourteen hours a week, or work over 28 hours a week in the household. Almost half the working children are girls.

In this programme we target children that do very hard and often also dangerous labour. These include the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery (including heavy household work), the use of children in illegal activities and work that threatens the health and safety of children. We encounter these practices in for example clothing and shoe factories, on rubber and sugar cane plantations, at processors of crustaceans and in the fireworks and entertainment industries.


Over half a billion people live below the poverty line in Asia. Therefore, poverty is one of the most important reasons why child labour is widespread out there. Also, Asians often look upon child labour as natural. But the countries in this region differ substantially from each other, both politically and economically, which also makes the specific causes of child labour (and also the measures taken to address it) different. Whatever the causes may be: child labour has huge consequences. Children suffer both physically and mentally from it. They don't go to school, or are underachieving at school. This minimises their chances, making them unable to escape their poverty.


What do we want to achieve?

  • 94.360 children and communities receive information about the dangers of child labour.
  • 24.513 victims and vulnerable children get the opportunity to receive education or vocational training.
  • 10.449 children receive legal aid.
  • 4.873 staff members of police, justice and other authorities are taught about what child labour actually is and what they can do about it.
  • 14.597 children are saved from their labour situation and receive support.

What we do

Together with our local partners in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, MyanmarThailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines we want to tackle the worst forms of child labour. Our strategy is as follows:


We want to eradicate its main causes, poverty and lack of education, by helping vulnerable children and their families. Children can go to school or receive vocational training and families will get the opportunity to increase their income (e.g. help with setting up a business and offering training). Through giving information on the consequences of child labour we also raise the awareness of the population of the countries in which we are active. We also cooperate with companies, with the aim of them putting a stop to using (mainly) the worst forms of child labour.


We help child labourers, so they can get out of their situation (of exploitation). After that we provide them with medical and psychological care, shelter and legal assistance. We also help them with the return to their family or community, and make sure they can go to school and they and their families receive financial support.

Promotion and lobby

Together with our partners we urge countries to develop legislation and policies that prevent child labour. Asian countries are united in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). We call upon these alliances to meet the commitments in the field of child labour. 

We also cooperate with the media, celebrities and influential companies. Together we act against child labour and we exert influence on community leaders, governments and the population. We stimulate them to think about alternatives for child labour.

Legal aid

We advocate for taking a firm line with perpetrators of child labour and exploitation. This calls for a reinforcement of the law system through awareness campaigns and also for police and justice to have the right people and means to tackle this problem. We also want victims of child labour to receive legal aid. We also provide legal assistance to children in court.


The three-year program against child labour in Asia started in January 2016. Some of the results of the first six months of 2017:

  • In Bangladesh 208 children have been saved from the worst forms of child labour. If necessary, they received medical care
  • In Bangladesh 82 community members with children who are vulnerable to exploitation have participated in income generating activities, so they don't need to put their children to work anymore
  • In India 299 children have been registered to school
  • In Myanmar 175 vulnerable children received vocational training, and 150 child labourers psychosocial support
  • In Thailand 420 youngsters received a training to become ‘agents of change’ to fight the worst forms of child labour in their communities
  • In the Philippines 2.554 community members with vulnerable children have participated in awareness raising activities.