June 12th – World Day Against Child Labor

Today, throughout the world, around 215 million children work, many full-time. They do not go to school and have little or no time to play. Many do not receive proper nutrition or care. They are denied the chance to be children. More than half of them are exposed to the worst forms of child labor such as work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labor, illicit activities including drug trafficking, prostitution, and involvement in armed conflict.


In 2002, the International Labor Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labor to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it.

Each year on June 12th, the WDACL brings together governments, employers, workers, and organizations,  as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child laborers and what can be done to help them.

Around the world, large numbers of children continue to be engaged in paid or unpaid domestic work in the home of a third party or employer. These children can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Their work is typically hidden from the public eye, often resulting in isolation, or requirement that they work far away from their family home. Stories of the abuse of children in domestic work are all too common.

The creation of this annual observance of WDAC and continued efforts to end child labor, is thanks in part to Lewis Hine – a  New York City school teacher and social documentary photographer, who in 1911, was hired by the National Child Labor Committee to document child labor abuse in America. His heart-wrenching images of children at work helped lead to the passage of new labor laws in the United States.

group photo child labor

{“Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker. S. Pittston, Pa, January 1911” – By Lewis Hine}

He felt so strongly that if people could just see for themselves the injustices of child labor, they would rise up and demand its end. He used his photography as a means to achieve social reform.

{Child Labor Law Promo Bill, by Lewis Hine}

Hine believed that a camera, held with hands of compassion, can be a powerful tool for positive change, and once stated, “perhaps you are weary of child labor pictures. Well, so are the rest of us. But we propose to make you and the whole country so sick and tired of the whole business that when the time for action comes, child labor pictures will be records of the past.”  

child labor

As written and documented by photographer, Lewis Hine: “Furman Owens, 12 years old. Can’t read. Doesn’t know A, B, C’s. He told me, ‘Yes I want to learn but can’t when I work all the time”. January 1909

Though much has changed since Lewis Hine’s portrayed the stark conditions of working children during the early 1900’s, the issues of child labor sadly continues.

Imagine a world in which every child attended school and nobody was forced to work against their will. World Day Against Child Labor stresses the central role of programs that reduce poverty and vulnerability, and in partnership with the United Nations, is working to ensure that children have access to basic resources including nutrition, health and education, so that they may fully realize their potential.