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Report: 168 Million Children Worldwide Were Laborers in 2013

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The U.S. Labor Department reported Tuesday that globally last year 168 million children between the ages of 5- and 17-years-old were laborers, with many performing hazardous jobs.

A whopping 85 million of the 168 million child laborers in 2013 were performing hazardous labor in which their health or safety was compromised, reports the 13th edition of the annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Hazardous labor is one of four categories in the report classified as the “worst forms” of child labor, a designation that also includes slavery, sexual exploitation and other illegal or illicit activities.

“Behind these numbers are children wielding machetes to crack open cocoa pods; girls working as domestic servants in third-party homes doing laundry from dawn until dusk; and boys wading in puddles of mercury sifting for gold,” the report said.

The report also estimated that within this 168 million, there are at least 6 million children in forced labor, including those chained to looms to weave carpets, sold to brothels or mandated to leave school and pick cotton.

The 958-page document has been mandated by the Trade and Development Act of 2000, a law that regulates how the Labor Department determines which countries are eligible for trade benefits from the U.S. The benefits are denied to countries with the “worst forms of child labor,” a practice that has fallen 30% between 2000 and 2012. Still, these forms of labor have left about 10% of the world’s children laboring instead of attending school, the report said.

“This report shines a light on the estimated 168 million children around the world who toil in the shadows — crawling underground in mine shafts, sewing in textile factories or serving in households as domestic workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in a press release. “We are seeing more countries take action to address the issue, but the world can and must do more to accelerate these efforts. When children are learning rather than working, families flourish, economies grow and nations prosper.”

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