Children at Work

AFRICA-10237The Sahel, Africa

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

INDIA-10207Ship-breaking yard, Mumbai, India

Shoepolisher, Tibetans, 12/2000, final book_iconicLhasa, Tibet

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

Marpha, Nepal, 1998Marpha, Nepal

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

AFGHN-13034NFKabul, Afghanistan

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

Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-13002Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12258-(1)Kandahar, Afghanistan

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.

_SM13419, Myanmar, Burma, 02/2011, BURMA-10283Mandalay, Myanmar/ Burma

AFGHN-10025Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12925Bamiyan, Afghanistan 

“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


AFGHN-12209Pul i Khumri, Afghanistan

Cigarette Vendor, Kabul Survey Trip, 05/2002 Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12243Pul i Khumri, Afghanistan

Charikar, Afghanistan, 2002

 ImagineAsia’s Storybook Project for Afghan Children

The mission of ImagineAsia, a 501c3 non-profit organization, is to work in partnership with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help students in Afghan communities receive fundamental educational materials and resources. 

IA  has started to translate Aesop’s fables into Dari for the children of Afghanistan who have never had a book of their own.  Translated and illustrated by volunteers, these stories will reach families in remote areas of the country.

For thousands of years the fables have revealed universal truths through simple allegories.  The stories often use animals to  teach lessons that are easily understood by people of all ages.

Here are some sample pages:

The Lion and the Mouse –  illustrated by Jason Melcher

 The Boy Who Cried Wolf – illustrated by Kate Raines

Pitcher and the Crow –  illustrated by Lois Andersen

An Afghan Folktale – The Silver on the Hearth – illustrated by Kate Harrold

Tortoise and Hare –  illustrated by Kate Harrold

The Donkey and its Purchaser – illustrated by Kate Harrold

The Sun and the Wind – illustrated by Annie Zimmerman

 The Fox and the Goat – illustrated by Jason Melcher


36 Responses to “Children at Work”

  1. Reblogged this on Nasuko Japan and commented:
    I have no words..

  2. Thank you! This must have been terribly disturbing for you being with these children, as it is for us viewing your amazingly
    fine work!

  3. degouvestz laurent Says:


  4. Great set of pictures by Steve McCurry; I worked on a Caye (an Island off the shore of Belize) photographing the building of Cabañas (Huts with thatched roofs), and the workers from Guatamala used child workers. I wish I had been more aware at the time!

  5. We have to think more … after i saw these photo .first, I think it’s beautiful and nice shot but deeply in my mind i think more ..about this children some coutry they must to become soldier in army..too..

  6. I can only hope that we all work even harder to make a difference somehow…

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve heard that children work on cocoa bean farms in Africa. Makes me think twice before buying chocolate and where it originates.

  8. 12sonrisas Says:

    A world traveler I listeded to reflected it best….In countries where the government and culture subordinated, oppressed and kept uneducated one half of its population (women), poverty among the masses was the most evident and intense. In countries where that half of the population was supported to develop their potential as contributing members of society, children were nourished & educated; families size was reasonable in correlation to income; and the general economic health of the counrtry was stable and in a position to grow. Man’s ego has the capacity to doom us all to an existence of strife and struggle – one way or another,

  9. danny atan Says:

    children are cute n pure in heart. they have the right to have education n other rights such as the adults having. we can never take these basic rights from them. wat would u feel if u are treated in this way. we are all equal regardless of our diffrence skin colour, religion n etc… and we all have the right to be happy in these world.

  10. Khalid Rahim Says:

    Steve, tens of thousands of these images will not stop either the necons nor those whom we bomb with drones or send soldiers to die in a never ending war.
    Our self-centered egoism far surpasses our power of reasoning to understand a
    small thing Human Life.

  11. Nice photos, Mr McCurry. Incredible.

  12. Marietta Yandoc Says:

    Treating children this way is cruelty.

  13. This is sadly a reality that is hard to face… And we, occidentals, carry a part of resonsability on that …

    There still a lot to do in the human rght and Children right … And NOTHING, I say NOTHING can justify such slavery.
    Coz there is a BIG difference in children helping at the level of their ability (house care, little jobs ) and this middle age practices…

    Thx Steve to move us with the reality of our work.

    I will publish (like nearly all your post ) on my FB page. You are an exemple for a lot of phtographers, and supposed one…



  14. Caro sr
    Aqui no Brazil como em outras partes do mundo temos problemas serissimos com esta questao do trabalho e exploraçao sexual das crianças,
    As crianças sao colocadas no trabalho para ajudarem no sustento da familia e por serem ” crianças” sao exploradas ,humilhadas , recebendo migalha-las em troca de seu esforço fisico, retiradas da escola e muitas vezes sao abandonadas pelas proprias familias por nao terem como sustenta-las .

  15. I’m against at child labour. But the problem is everyone keep on saying to stop child labour but no proper action is done. Proper action in the sense is that we not only need to stop and help the children from working but also try to find out a way how to support their family.

    Because in my country (yeah.. it’s Myanmar, one of the worst at child labouring), even though you try to help the children (e.g you support their education expenses), the children themselves don’t wish to go to school because they can’t stand seeing their families struggling.

    So, the root of all the problems is poverty. If we REALLY want to free the children from labouring in world poorest countries, we need to find out a way to let their families live in a human-standard life first.

  16. magda Says:

    great job!!!!

  17. bravo bravo BRAVO!!!!
    those pictures are amazing, I looooove them!!!
    congrats ans greetings from Spain,


  18. Says:

    Espectacular tu trabajo como siempre, además de denunciar estas situaciones entre los mas pequeños. Un saludo

  19. Mind blowing collection Steve!

  20. I saw this in burma, morocco, cambodia, and elsewhere.
    Always gut-wrenching, but fascinating in some sort of way – the beauty of those kids keeps shining through all that dirt, poverty, and hardship. I like to think there’s some hope for them, and for the rest of us too.

    kudos on the nice set of compelling and inspiring images Steve.
    Also, thanks for making a few people think a little about what life is about in the far corners of the planet.

  21. I just only remember Eugene Smith with images of a such charachter.

    Congratulations for your work, impressive work!


  22. Sad and Discusted Says:

    This makes me so sad and disgusted! I am sad by all the pain these innocents must suffer in the name of the family. Second I am even more disgusted now with our country because President Bush and his policy changes made it so almost all manufacturing of products has left our country and gone to India and other countries and so not only are the greedy rich of our nation using these same countries and (I can only imagine children) but they have put our own country on the brink of disaster all in the name of money.

    I think Allen hit it on the head when he said that continuing to use child labor will continue to keep the country in poverty. I am not affluent either and I have cared for my children with what I have. I have not sent them out to beg for money ( I see that here just like you would in poor countries) I have NOT taken them out of school and put them to work mowing lawns or whatever I could to get their hard earned money from them. (I have seen that here in this country as well.) I have NOT kept them out of school so they could stay home and take care of their brothers and sisters so that I could work, I have seen that here also, and while I realize and recognize that other countries do not have the same social supports or the same cultural systems until their priority is the CHILDREN and their children’s EDUCATION ( I tell my youngest since the others have graduated school is your job and you are expected to do it well.) Then those countries will continue to have children for the sole purpose of supporting the family. They will have girl children to sell into the sex trades and male children to sell into the labor and yes also the sex trade.
    Many in these countries hate people from more affluent countries because of what they have and they feel that somehow those in the affluent countries are responsible for the suffering of those in the poverty stricken countries but the truth is their own lack of coming out of the dark ages and emulating those who are succeeding is what is keeping them in poverty.
    Continuing to place so little value on human life, bearing children they cannot support, government leaders who lead for what they can get and not for the betterment of their country and do not care who knows it.

    Every religion on the face of the planet that I am familiar with commands LOVE yet this world these days has very little of that anywhere.

    Sad and disgusted and will be for a very long time.

  23. Sadly moving photos.

  24. Allen Robertson Says:

    @Pawan You are obviously trying to justify child labor by saying it is needed for some families. So having your child work 12 to 14 hours a day in abusively harsh conditions, where they are beaten and abused, is needed? Maybe you need re-evaluate your values and priorities.
    If, in order to have kids, you need to have them work as slaves, don’t you think that maybe you should wait to have kids until you are able to support them properly? If you can’t support your kids maybe you shouldn’t be having them or maybe you shouldn’t have more than you can support.
    You say that,”Real help will be to support the entire family”, and I say real help is not having a family if you can’t support it or only have one large enough that you can support. Don’t keep having children if you can’t support them; that is the case in India where there are very large families with no means of support and that is why it is the poorest country in the world and one of the most densely populated. It is irresponsible to have 4 children when you can only support one without having to put the others into slave labor. If a person has been responsible and only had as many children as he can support properly and THEN falls on hard times, then help should be given but taking personal responsibility first is the key.
    If you keep having one child after another when YOU KNOW you cannot support the children you already have, then you are the problem. Having a child is the biggest decision an adult can make and that decision must be made rationally as well as emotionally. It’s not just a matter of, ” Do I love my wife and want to have many children with her?”, that is only one half of the decision. The other half is asking yourself,” Can I support these children properly?”, if you can’t answer YES to both questions then you should wait until you can answer YES to both. If there never comes a time when you can answer yes to both questions then you shouldn’t bring kids into the world where you know that you are going to have to make them slaves in order to survive.
    Now as far as the children who are now living in these countries where they are suffering under slave labor, the people of the world could stop it right now if their priority was to stop it instead of making the huge profits off of the slave trade. If the citizens of the world did change their priority and did put a stop child slavery and abuse and helped these children by feeding, clothing and sheltering them, that would be the first half of the solution. The second half would be to educate them on how to be responsible adults by doing proper and responsible family planning; by proper and responsible I mean teaching them that they should only have a family, the size of which, they can support. Without the educational second half of the solution it would only be enabling and continuing the problem of irresponsible parenting and the problem would continue.
    I live in a so-called affluent country but I wasn’t affluent or even close to being affluent, believe it or not in many of the so-called affluent countries there are a great many poor people, so I only had one child; even though I dearly wanted more. I had one child because I knew I couldn’t support more than one.
    There is no justification or rationalization for child slave labor and if you knowingly keep having children when you know you can’t support them, then you are the problem. People love to help people who are responsible but who have fallen on hard times; people have a problem helping someone who is totally irresponsible by having ten children when he can only support one. The problem of child slavery is a four legged stool of abuse. One leg of the problem is the people who abuse children by treating them as slaves and the second leg is a parent who is totally irresponsible by having so many children that he knows he can’t support and he also knows the only way they can survive is to sell them into slavery. The third leg of the three legged stool of abuse is a nation whose government turns a blind eye to the slavery issue and allows it to run rampant. It starts with the irresponsible parent and continues with the abusers and then with a government that allows it.
    The fourth leg to this stool is the people who buy the products produced by slavery. If people begin to look at everything they wish to buy by first asking themselves,” From where did this product come and how was it produced?”, and not buying it until they can be assured that it was not produced by people who are working under slave conditions. Slave conditions are defined by me as extremely low wages, awful working external environment, abusive physical, mental and emotional conditions.
    If the products of slavery have no buyers then the practice will cease. So the next time you pick up that shirt or dress or whatever product that appears to be such a great price, ask the seller,” Where was this made, who made it and what were the conditions under which they labored?” If the sellers can’t answer those questions and really they need to show that what they are telling you is true because( And here is a shocker) people will lie to you to get you to buy something, don’t buy from them. We, as citizens of the world, need to have as the first priority, when we are buying something, to know exactly how it was made. That first priority needs to take the place of the current priority of, “Where can I get the best deal or the cheapest price?” When paying as little as possible for anything is your first priority you can be assured that slavery all over the world will continue and greed will remain the number one vice that produces all the others.

    • I saw your comment just after I’ve commented. Yes, you are right. I couldn’t agree anymore on family planning. But… okay.. but in such country, no one would educate their parents regarding to family planning. Even they there may have so called education sessions, those all are usually ended with fading all facts in the air. And such educating can’t help the current children.

      For me, I feel like all such poverty related problems are rooted in country’s situation and of course, the ruling people, too.

    • @Allen: I am not justifying the Child Labor.

      If you come on realty ground, you will find people sending their kids to work are not educated enough, they can explain a simple logic that “kids, means helping hands”.

      Supporting the family with working child by offering a better job can prevent parents sending their kids to work.

      Parents needs to be educated before children, else sooner or later child will be at work place again …

  25. […] i don’t ever want to forget.  remind yourself today. […]

  26. It’s so sad that the most beautiful pictures, are those that show the most pain.. only because they are true! I agree with Ana Lima..
    But it’s good to see that somebody do something!

  27. Can you guys see how their eyes have no signs of childhood? Actully I just saw a glance of this at portraits #6 and #14 in all the others the children look like adults…

  28. The idea of children laboring is so ingrained in these cultures – it is considered the norm.

    My mother came from Vietnam after the war and raised myself and five siblings. She was always teaching us what she learned – to work hard.

    I went to work with her by age 4 (probably earlier) and can remember picking bushels of snow peas. I had my first job delivering newspapers by age seven. At age 11, I rode my bike after school and babysat an eight and 18-month old. And by age 13, I was working part-time hours and by 15 full-time.

    We were all taught to work, work, work. To my mother, this was part of her way of life that she was passing onto us. Now being in America for 39 years, she has *somewhat* shifted her attitude towards children and working – she still believes and urges us to work hard.

    That being said – I wonder how this will shift if the culture deems it normal?

    Just thinking out loud…

  29. inspiring photos

  30. Child labour is no doubt a bad thing, but these children are doing it to support their families. Sending them to school is what we think of, but how many of us think that who will earn that extra cent for family. Real help will be to support entire family.

  31. yunide perez Says:

    You are amazing. Thank you for showing us a different perpective in a work day. Adults who sit at a desk complained that is Monday and they need to work.

  32. As usual, wonderful and inspiring series of photos!

  33. Amazing pictures like always, Steve.

    Unfortunately is the sad reality in the four corners of the world: child labor.

    Kind Regards.

    Ricardo Vilela

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