During the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs pledged to take new action to end child labor. 

As we reported in our Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, released in September 2021, global child labor is on the rise for the first time in four years. Reversing this backslide and ending child labor will take all of us - governments, companies, civil society, the media, workers, and consumers. For our part, here is what we pledged and where we stand today.

Our pledge and our progress

ILAB pledged to accelerate action internationally to eliminate child labor and forced labor by:

  • Supporting efforts by the global community, including worker organizations, civil society, and Alliance 8.7 Pathfinder countries, to address child labor and forced labor

    We supported many global projects to eradicate labor abuse in 2021, but we are especially proud of two new initiatives that came out of this commitment: our Global Accelerator Lab 8.7 project, which will work with trade unions to support informal workers in Ghana, Nigeria, Malaysia, and Somalia; and our Catalyst project, which will support civil society to address child labor in Nepal, Peru, and Uganda.
  • Expanding access to social protection for vulnerable children, workers, and families, to ensure that a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic will never again threaten their health and wellbeing

    Many of our projects took steps to ensure children and families not only weathered this crisis without turning to child labor to survive, but that they are also prepared for the next health, social, or economic shock. Our Futuros Brillantes project in Honduras, for example, has been supporting over 95 locally run child labor committees, which are helping connect thousands of children and families to health, recreation, development and other social services provided by civil society and local and national government. The project also helped secure lasting support for the committees from the Honduran Ministry of Labor.
  • Fostering companies’ responsibility and accountability for their supply chains and promoting respect for worker voice and other labor rights

    We ramped up activities on two supply chain tracing projects, the STREAMS project, which is tracing goods made with child and forced labor in the garment sector of India, and the Global Trace Protocol project, which is tracing cotton from Pakistan and cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These add to our ongoing programs, research and tools to promote responsible and transparent business conduct. 
  • Creating an online platform to publicly share with the tools, resources, research, and lessons learned developed through decades of ILAB-supported technical assistance programming aimed at eliminating child labor and forced labor around the world

    This platform is under development, and we look forward to sharing it when it is live. Ultimately, the platform will house data, research and tools like the ones created through our RICHES project. RICHES designed and developed 19 tools that are used to mitigate the risk of child labor occurring as a result of women’s economic empowerment initiatives. Research has shown that as women entrepreneurs expand their businesses, they sometimes turn to their children to help with the labor burden, which in turn increases the likelihood that children will abandon their schooling. 
  • Promoting donor coordination to share good practices with the goal of maximizing impact of international technical assistance funding

    We are active members and proud supporters of the Global Coordinating Group of Alliance 8.7. In 2021, the Bureau of International labor Affairs provided a template to the group intended to help donor countries coordinate their individual efforts more effectively. Greater coordination can help amplify existing program funding and efforts and help donors find new ways to work together toward our shared goal of ending labor abuse.
  • Conducting research and analysis on the efforts of 130 countries to address child labor during 2020, in the face of COVID-19

    Last year, we focused our programming and research on innovative ways to address child labor during the pandemic. Our Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor report, details the effects of COVID-19 on child labor and the state of child labor in 131 countries and territories. The report also covers progress and gaps in countries' laws, policies, and programs in the fight to end child labor. This research helps us focus our resources where they are needed most and helps to encourage action by other governments.
  • Issuing the Iqbal Masih award in recognition of exceptional efforts to reduce child labor

    Each year, we recognize champions in the fight to end child labor through the Iqbal Masih Award. In 2021, we honored the International Labor Organization, a longtime leader in the fight to end labor abuse, and Norma Flores López, an advocate for ending exploitative child labor in the United States.
  • Supporting the Fifth Global Conference on Child Labor, including promoting full participation by civil society and workers

    As we continue working on all aspects of our pledge, we look forward to connecting with our global partners, including civil society, at the Fifth Global Conference on Child Labor in May 2022 in Durban, South Africa. In fact, our new Catalyst project will be working to increase civil society participation in the conference at the regional and global levels.

We have been carrying out our pledge actions alongside others in the U.S. government. To learn about actions by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, please click here  (see The U.S Experience.)

Other U.S. Government agencies have also been carrying out pledge actions. 

The U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) will continue supporting existing Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnerships with the Governments of Peru, Jamaica, and Mongolia to strengthen their efforts to effectively prosecute and convict child traffickers, provide comprehensive trauma-informed care for child victims of these crimes, and prevent child trafficking in all its forms. The CPC partnership with the Philippines concluded in April 2021. The TIP Office signed a new CPC partnership with the Government of Colombia on April 26, 2022.  The Office will also continue its efforts to combat child trafficking, including forced child labor, through bilateral programs as well as the Program to End Modern Slavery, which supports rigorous research to reduce the prevalence of human trafficking.  

The U.S. government has also continued to support and promote the Responsible Sourcing Tool, a website that provides research and due diligence tools to help U.S. federal contractors, procurement officials, and private sector companies better identify, prevent, and address the risks of human trafficking in their global supply chains. Over the last few years, new risk management tools for the food and beverage industry and the private security sector have been added to the suite of 10 due diligence tools and exiting tools for the seafood industry.   

In 2021, the Office of the United States Trade Representative committed to seeking to use the full range of trade tools and to working U.S. our trade partners and allies to protect labor rights, including the elimination of the worst forms of child labor, especially forced labor.  USRT actions include:

  • On behalf of the U.S. Government, the Office of the Unites States Trade Representative fought hard to elevate the problem of forced labor, including forced child labor, in supply chains with U.S. trading partners. The G7 Trade Ministers’ communiqué on forced labor, released in October 2021, expresses a shared desire for member countries to work together, along with businesses, to combat this problem. The communiqué is based on international standards and reflects the U.S. Government toolkit that has been cultivated over the last 25 years to combat this harmful practice. The United States will continue to work with our trading partners to highlight and spur progress on the scourge of forced labor.
  • In September 2021, the United States and the European Union committed to work together and with stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic under the Trade and Technology Council to protect workers and labor rights and combat forced and child labor.

To combat child labor in 2021, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID): 

  • Developed and revised agency-wide policies and training designed to protect vulnerable populations, including children and youth, from forced labor and human trafficking. These include the Counter-Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Policy, the mandatory C-TIP Code of Training, the Policy on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and Child Safeguarding Standards. 
  • Collaborated with the interagency, international organizations, and private sector partners to address forced labor in their product supply chains. 
  • Incorporated C-TIP child protection strategies and approaches into Country Development Cooperation Strategies, Regional Development Cooperation Strategies, and Missions’ integrated learning agendas.
  • Continued or implemented C-TIP activities focused on 1) preventing forced child labor through protection, prosecution, prevention, and partnerships and 2) ensuring that parents are empowered and engaged in decent work. Examples include:
    • USAID/Colombia Youth Resilience Activity, which supports youth in high-risk environments to reach their full potential as safe, productive, healthy, and engaged participants with positive enabling environments where violence is prevented, and risks associated with crime are mitigated.
    • USAID/Ghana’s Ghana Fisheries Recovery Activity, which aims to establish a durable basis for the recovery of the small pelagic fisheries sector and build on existing cooperation to combat child labor and trafficking in the coastal regions where these abuses are most prevalent.
    • USAID/Bosnia-Herzegovina Strengthening Counter-Trafficking Efforts in BiH project, which provides tools and training to counter trafficking in persons and focuses on the Roma communities in BiH, where both adults and children are vulnerable to trafficking, particularly forced begging, labor, and marriage.
  • Conducted research exploring country-specific and regional trends and approaches to prevent trafficking and intervene with vulnerable child populations:
    • USAID funded research, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Trafficking in Persons, analyzing Health and Human Services case data on unaccompanied minors who were trafficked into the US. Preliminary analysis showed over 90 percent of youth came from the Northern Triangle countries and Mexico.

To follow progress on our pledge, check this page periodically for updates and follow us on Twitter @ILAB_DOL.

*This page was updated July 2022.