ILAB's mission is to strengthen global labor standards, enforce labor commitments among trading partners, promote racial and gender equity, and combat international child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking.

At a Glance

Global estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicate that 160 million children between 5-17 years old were engaged in child labor in 2021, of which about 79 million were in hazardous labor. While concerted efforts by governments, workers, and employers have resulted in a reduction of nearly 86 million children engaged in child labor since 2000, this positive trend has changed in recent years. Global estimates in 2021 showed an increase of 8.4 million children in child labor in the last four years and a 6.5 million increase in the number of children engaged in hazardous work. As these figures suggest, there are still far too many children in exploitive work. Child laborers are found carrying heavy loads and wielding machetes on farms; scavenging in garbage dumps and are being exposed to electronic waste; enduring physical, emotional, and verbal abuse as domestic servants; and fighting as child combatants in armed conflict. The latest ILO global estimates also showed an increase from 24.9 to 27.6 million people who are trapped in forced labor, including 3.3 million children. Children and adults are forced to climb into mineshafts in search of diamonds and gold; are coerced, deceived, and confined on fishing vessels by unscrupulous labor recruiters; and are trapped in bonded labor while toiling in the extreme heat of brick kilns.


Our Role

With over 25 years of experience, the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT) in the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) at the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) is a world leader in the fight to eradicate these labor abuses. OCFT combats child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking by:

  • Demonstrated commitment and leadership in the worldwide movement to end child labor, which has contributed to the global reduction of nearly 86 million child laborers since 2000.
  • In-depth research on child labor and forced labor in more than 150 countries around the world, including individual country roadmaps to support the enforcement of labor provisions in trade agreements and preference programs.
  • Partnerships with 99 governments and over 90 organizations to strengthen laws, enforcement, policies, and social programs to end child labor, and more than 65,000 labor inspectors and law enforcement officials trained.
  • Social compliance tools for businesses and trade associations, such as the mobile application Comply Chain, to raise awareness of risks and highlight remediation practices to ensure that child labor and forced labor are not in global supply chains.

ILAB engagement and technical cooperation initiatives have made a critical difference in the lives of close to 2 million children and nearly 200,000 families through education and livelihood support and increased capacity of governments and other stakeholders to combat child labor and forced labor. More broadly, ILAB’s work to monitor and enforce the labor provisions of trade agreements and preference programs, which include prohibitions on child labor and forced labor, helps ensure fair competition and a level playing field for U.S. workers and businesses. ILAB’s efforts to eliminate hazardous and exploitative labor practices also respond to concerns of U.S. consumers that the imported products they buy should be made in a way that is consistent with their values.

Think About It

Do you know how your favorite goods are made? Items you use every day may be produced by child or forced labor.
Learn more.

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