Children at Work

In developing countries one in six children from 5 to 14 years old is involved in child labor.


Nepal, 1983

In the least developed countries, 30 percent of all children are engaged in child labor.


Boy working in candy factory, Kabul, 2006

Worldwide, 126 million children work in hazardous conditions, often enduring beatings, humiliation and sexual violence by their employers.


An eleven-year-old boy working in gold mine, Mindinao, Philippines, 1985

An estimated 1.2 million children — both boys and girls — are trafficked each year into exploitative work in agriculture, mining, factories, armed conflict or commercial sex work.


Tibetan Girl, 2002



Children work in an opium field in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. 1982

The highest proportion of child laborers is in sub-Saharan Africa, where 26 percent of children (49 million) are involved in work.


Niger, 1995


Boy sells flowers in busy road, India 1993


Young Welder, Bombay, India, 1994

“Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together,  and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.” –  Grace Abbott


31 Responses to “Children at Work”

  1. According to statistics, the number of working children fell down. I think it is a good start and it is became one of the advantages of orienting companies and organizations on social accountability with regards to international human rights.

  2. Its being a pity that INDIA is having a lots of child labour, & that too in our very sight….we may talk big but on grounds we promote so many people making a childhood a lost land.

    Help these poor children not with the money but with your gratitude & love. There are so many government poicies also helping the cause & NGO taking care off these childern but first we must stop giving these childhoods jobs

  3. hi steve!

    do u made the picture “Young Welder, Bombay, India, 1994”

    if yes – we as a company would use it in our image brochure!
    Is this possible? dave

  4. During my stay in India 2003 -2007 Indian goverment twice has try to abolish foot rickshaw in Calcutta. Attraction for foreigners, shame for politicians. Finaly finish it somwhere in the dust. About 18 000 rickshaws workes fed adequate number of family members. Neither BJP nor AIC was ready gave the job to fed the many thousands hungry people. To work is not a shame. When I was shopping 4 years on the Sarojini market in South Delhi, young kulis ask me for a job : “kuli sir ? No? Maybe next time, yes?” disappointment and hope in one short sentence. They was proud and honorable workes. Not a once time they run whole market to give me back a change. Smallest businessmen I ever know. Maybe prematurely adult. After years I’ve saw some to sale as vendors, a grade in career. I’ve meet thousands young beggars at the traffic light of 14 millions city. Not a one at the Sarojini market.
    What is a better destiny for a child: to be a proud bread-winner of own family or sitting at the PC and watching welldressed father beating your mother?

    P.S. for Steve McCurry: I’ve got a feeling that you’ve leave a part of your heart in India – like me:) I’ve discovered the land mostly with small scooter (and of course camera) from Rajasthan to Himachal. Wish I can catch the moment like you. Visited you small picture exposition in Hyatt hotel on the Ring Road about 2005 or 2006 (tears in my eyes!). Thank you Steve I can share the same world at the same time as you. Namaste Stevejee!

  5. Steve~

    Thank you so much for sharing your photos and thoughts with us. Your photographs of children playing on tanks makes me very thankful that the only war my six-year-old son has to worry about is a Nerf war in our backyard.

    You do amazing work! I am an aspiring photographer and hope to one day be in your position- taking photographs that change how people think about the world.


  6. Dear Steve.
    I like very much your pictures.
    I have a blog on non-duality and, sometimes, I post some text with your photos (can I?).
    Thank you for your beautiful work.

  7. Ashinique Says:

    i am doing a project on this topic and it kills me to be reading this:( if i could stop all this with just the power of one…I WOULD! these children dont need this right now and it makes me rele worry and care that they have to be put through this…!

  8. Your words are as important as your photographs. Although I read twinges of your own political views in your blog, I appreciate the fact that you retain your journalistic integrity. You make your observations, you expose the state of the world (with such clarity in your photographs) and you let people make their comments. They project their opinions onto you, but your integrity remains. That’s nice to see.

  9. bluepaperjournal Says:

    Steve, most insightful images. Thank you for giving me much needed perspectives.

  10. I want to say that the picture you paste about a Tibetan Girl. This kind of labor is usual in my country, China. That can not prove that our country has children labor.

  11. Hi Steve–wonderful images. Save the Children India has recently started a blog for our Child Rights for Change! project (anti-child labour, primarily in the agricultural sector). You might find some of the images found there quite poignant. Please do let me know if you’d be interested in doing any field photos from the project–we would love to accommodate you on this.

    I’ve worked in many of the countries that you have photographed in this entry. Excellent work!

    David Brickey Bloomer
    Head of Child Protection
    Save the Children, India

  12. Hi Steve,
    Your photographs are really inspiring. You not only inspire young photographer but also common people
    to know more about different culture.
    I still wonder how do you manage to take such shots at such low light
    Can you share your efix data – it’s a great learning for all of us.

  13. These pictures document a reality very sad and very common in third world countries. I think that children should play, study, they should not work as slaves in mines or in areas where drugs are grown. Thanks for sharing these photos.


  14. Beautiful photographs of unfortunate and horrifying circumstances. Thank you for sharing these.

  15. Dear Steve,

    At times our busy lives makes us forget the sad realities of our world .. thanks for the reminder and the wonderful images.

    Best regards,

  16. christine Says:

    i have a comfortable life, i check your blog twice or three time a week, a window on the world and i go back to my life feeling uncomfortable, thanks. (Sorry for my english)

  17. Steve,

    The point you mentioned about the kind of work being harmful for physical and mental development of a child is very correct. We must also not forget that child labour is cheaper than the usual labour. And that’t the reason for the employment of them. Sometimes children have to support their families in some countries just to save the family – because there is hardly any social security. Then the question of morality fades to a question of humanity.

    Also, we must not confuse outsourcing with child labour at all – as mentioned in one of the comments.

    Thanks for the touching photographs. You are always a big inspiration!


  18. Steve, are you in town this month, we should get together – i have some prints to show you

  19. A very important point and something i wish people would consider when they buy super cheap imported goods – not only is that destroying the lives of many Americans now out of work because we simply no longer make things in this country, it deprives these kids of their childhood – a vicious cycle that i wish i could solve

  20. I too thank you for this. Many people do not understand the issue of child labor, and the way it is both reinforced by and reinforces poverty. There are places in this world where families rely on children to help earn enough money to sustain themselves; but the consequence is that they prepare their children for a life like their own. The choice can be a hard one – between survival now and a chance for a much better life later. This is why the solutions are complex, involving families, cultures and the children themselves. Your images play a vital part in teaching people about this by bringing the issue to life in a way words alone cannot. I too try to do my little bit, by using part of the proceeds of my work to support a project in Nicaragua. Many others work in the field and behind the scenes – my hope is that all our combined efforts make a real difference.

    • Steve McCurry Says:


      Many thanks for your kind words and for your observations about child labor. Best of luck with your work with the project in Nicaragua.


  21. lovebug35 Says:

    that’s sad..

  22. Thanks Steve for sharing the photos. Child labor is wrong. I witnessed it first hand happening to my niece when her mum decided to take her away from school prematurely to work in her noodle stall. Her lame reason was she was a lousy student so why waste the family resources in sending her to school. I’m concern what kind of future she’ll have.

  23. You make a very interesting point. Here is some information from the ILO website.

    Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour
    that is to be targeted for elimination. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive.

    This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families; they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.

    The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

    It refers to work that:

    is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and
    interferes with their schooling by:
    depriving them of the opportunity to attend school;
    obliging them to leave school prematurely; or
    requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

    I think this clarifies the difference pretty well.


  24. Your body of work never ceases to inspire, Steve. If any of your readers want to help support children in need, they can check out my little charity project designed to raise funds for UNICEF in lieu of buying & sending xmas cards… *charity plug ends*

  25. I wonder what the difference is when we talk about child labor in developing countries and “confidence building” or “entrepreneurial skills development” when we put our children in the USA to work!

    Some kids in the USA work all year long helping their parents or grandparents in small business all across the country. Some work during their Summer vacation.
    Still, those are children who should be playing with their friends! I am not against kids of a certain age to start making their own money and learning what it takes to accomplish just that; what I don’t like is when we separate what we do and what the third world population does.
    Am I missing something? Probably!

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