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This article has been written by Sneha Jaiswal, currently pursuing BA LLB (Hons.) from Christ (Deemed to be University) Delhi NCR. This article throws light on the concept of third world countries with regard to social evil i.e. ‘child labour’.


When people in many countries hear the term “third world country,” they immediately think of impoverished countries struggling to meet basic human needs.This may be true in today’s society, but during the Cold War, a third world country was defined as a country that did not have an alliance with either the United States (US) or the former Soviet Union (USSR).

In recent times, the term has come to be associated with countries with high poverty rates, financial turmoil, and populations who lack access to basic human requirements such as water, housing or shelter, and food. These countries are frequently underdeveloped, with high mortality rates in addition to widespread poverty. Social evils like child labour magnetise in the third world countries. There are other countries as well that face issues like this but due to its struggle to meet basic necessities of the human race, it has to deal with a number of problems like this.

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For a variety of causes, children may be forced to work. Child labour is most common when families experience financial difficulties or uncertainty, whether as a result of poverty, a caregiver’s abrupt illness, or the loss of a major pay earner’s employment. The ramifications of child labour are staggering. Child labour can cause severe physical and emotional injury, as well as death. Slavery and sexual or economic exploitation are possible outcomes. In almost every case, it denies children access to education and health care, limiting their fundamental rights and jeopardising their futures.

What work is classified as child labour

Not all work done by children should be regarded as child labour, that should be eradicated. The ability to function at work by children or adolescents that is not harmful to their health or development or interferes with their schooling is generally considered as a positive thing. Helping their parents around the house, assisting in a family business, or earning pocket money outside of school hours and during school holidays are examples of such activities. These kinds of activities benefit children’s development and the well-being of their families by providing them with appropriate skills and experience, along with training them to be productive members of the family or for society during their adolescence.

Work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, as well as work that is hazardous to their physical and mental development, is commonly referred to as “child labour.” It denotes work that:

  • Is risky and detrimental to children on a mental, physical, social, or moral level; or
  • Interferes with their education by denying them the opportunity to attend school; forcing them to leave school early; or causing them to try to combine school attendance with overly long and heavy work.

The age of the child, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed, and the goals pursued by specific countries all influence whether or not certain types of “work” can be classified as “child labour.” The response differs from one country to the next, as well as between sectors within countries.

Concept of first, second and third world countries

During the Cold War, the term “Third World countries” was coined. Countries that were not aligned with the Communist Bloc or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or were neutral, were referred to as “third world countries.” This concept was first coined to divide countries into three groups based on their political and economic circumstances.

  • The United States, Canada, South Korea, Japan, and Western European states and allies were classified as First World countries during the Cold War.
  • China, Cuba, the Soviet Union, and their allies were among the countries of the Second World.
  • In Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Oceania, third-world countries typically have colonial histories.

The “three worlds” terminology has evolved since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Today, the term “third world” refers to a country that is less developed than others and confronts economic, social, political, environmental, and other challenges. As a result, there has been considerable confusion about how the term was first utilized.

The terms least developed countries (as defined by the United Nations) and low-income countries have largely superseded the term Third-World in recent years (as defined by the World Bank). In comparison to the rest of the world, third-world countries are now distinguished by high poverty rates, economic instability, and a lack of vital human resources.

Understanding of third-world countries

Whatever phrase is used, it refers to countries that have high poverty, high child mortality, low economic and educational progress, and low natural resource self-consumption. Countries that are at risk of being exploited by multinational firms and developed nations.

Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America are among the developing and technologically underdeveloped nations. Third world countries have economies that are reliant on wealthy countries, and they are often defined as impoverished, with insecure governments, high childbearing rates, high gender-related illiteracy, and a high risk of disease. The lack of a middle class is one of the most important issues, the country has a largely impoverished population and a small privileged upper class that controls the country’s wealth and resources. Foreign debt is likewise very high in most Third World countries. Because of the ongoing aid they require from other countries to keep their economies afloat and offer some financial stability to their inhabitants, these countries frequently accumulate a large amount of debt from foreign countries.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties, Gross National Income (GNI) and Poverty, Human Development Index (HDI), and Freedom of Information inside a country are all indices used to classify Third World countries.

Root causes of child labour

Children are most frequently involved in child labour because their parents or guardians believe it is “normal” for children to work, and in some instances, it is necessary for the children’s life and the survival of their families. When discussing child labour, it’s critical to think about it from the perspective of the children, their families, and their communities. Some of the core issues that make children particularly prone to child labour are listed below. 

  • Poverty

Poverty is without a doubt the single most powerful influence propelling innocent children into the workforce. When families are unable to cover basic needs such as food, water, education, or health care, they are forced to send their children to work to supplement the family’s income. Poverty is one of the leading causes of child labour since it is linked to several other variables such as low literacy and numeracy rates, a lack of decent employment options, natural calamities and climate change, disputes, and mass migration. Poverty and child labour are inextricably linked; if we don’t address one, we won’t be able to address the other.

  • Inadequate access to quality education

One of the most essential parameters is the availability and quality of education. School should be a friendly setting with suitable class sizes, a curriculum tailored to the requirements of the community, and be accessible to rural residents. It’s one thing to get kids into school and out of hazardous tasks or work, but keeping them there requires providing quality education to everyone which must be accessible to all children without any obstruction.

  • Access to decent work is limited

Children who have been exposed to child labour typically lack the essential educational foundation that would allow them to gain skills and improve their chances for a successful career. If young people cannot find work that is safe in nature that gives social protection, pays fairly, treats men and women equally, and allows workers to express their thoughts, they are often forced to do dangerous jobs. It is also considered child labour when youngsters over the age of the minimum working age perform dangerous jobs.

  • Narrow approach towards child labour

The belief is that employment is helpful for children’s character development and skill development. When parents are unaware of the dangers of child labour and how they affect their child’s health, safety, well-being, and future, they are more inclined to send their children to work. Child labour can also be influenced by cultural beliefs and social conventions.

Like for example in India, not sending a child to work means that the family would not be able to support itself to sustain their living. Many a time child labour is aggravated by sociocultural factors such as the caste system, discrimination, and cultural biases against girls.

  • Climate change and natural disasters 

Farmers in rural areas who lose their harvests due to climate change have no choice but to send their children to work. Natural disasters and climate change are posing a growing threat. Agricultural families who rely on predictable seasons are especially vulnerable to changing rainfall patterns, soil erosion, and extreme weather.

  • Conflicts and mass migration

There is a strong link between child labour and conflict and disaster circumstances. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), children account for more than half of all persons displaced by war. Due to increased economic shocks, a breakdown of social support, education, and basic amenities, and disruption of child protection services, these children are more exposed to sorts of exploitation, including child labour. In nations afflicted by conflict, the frequency of child labour is nearly twice as high as the worldwide average, and innocent children are also at risk of becoming embroiled in armed conflict, which is one of the worst forms of child labour.

Migrant and refugee children, many of whom have been uprooted by violence, disaster, or poverty, are at risk of being coerced into labour and even trafficked, particularly if they migrate alone or on irregular routes with their families. Violence, abuse, and other human rights violations are common among trafficked children. Some people may feel compelled to break the law. The threat of sexual exploitation looms high for girls, while armed forces or groups may exploit boys.

The plight of children in third world countries 

Many interest groups preferred to focus their efforts on the wretched conditions in the poor countries, despite the fact that the incidences of child labour were alarming. Perhaps it was easier and more politically expedient to blame global corporations and ostensibly insensitive Third World politicians for the problem than to address such complicated imbalances at home. Child labour is a huge and prevalent problem all throughout the world. Although the problem is most widespread in the Third World, child labour exploitation is a long-standing issue that affects both developed and developing nations. The numbers in the Third World are unsurprisingly depressing.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), up to 352 million children between the ages of five and seventeen are involved in some form of economic activity in developing nations. At least half of the children are full-time employees. Between 15% and 20% of the children are under the age. Many are working in situations that make reference to the Industrial Revolution’s earliest times. They work in factories and warehouses, often at their parent’s request, in forced or bonded labour situations. They work in mines and brickworks, making matches and fireworks. Pesticide poisoning and toxic gases, for example, are among the dangers children face during work which affect them overall. Millions of children work in the agriculture and fishing industries outside of factories. Countless other children work as domestic maids or prostitutes.

There are no limits to the extent to which children are exploited. According to the ILO data, Africa has the largest problem, with an estimated 72.1 million child labourers and 31.5 million in hazardous work. In Arab states, there are an estimated 13.4 million or about 15 percent are all child labourers in the region. However, such broad strokes fall short of accurately describing the issue. Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, employs more youngsters aged 14 and under than India. The problem also exists in first-world countries like industrialized European countries. Children in South European countries are employed in great numbers, particularly in seasonal activities, street vending, and household chores.

There is a rising demand for cheap, unskilled labour in eastern Europe, where centrally planned economies are rapidly being turned into market-driven economies. The demand for child employees is rapidly filling. Many east European youngsters under the age of 12 are illegally employed as street vendors, seasonal and migrant labourers on huge arms, and in urban garment manufacturing workshops. Sexual exploitation is also at its peak. The allure of inexpensive child labour persists in the country that kicked off the Industrial Revolution. The ineffective patchwork of rules regulating child employment is criticised by non-governmental organisations that keep an eye on the child labour evil.

Measures to stop the wrath of child labour

Child labour regulation is largely a national obligation, many people believe that the solution resides within sovereign states’ domestic jurisdiction. However, most countries’ labour laws restrict the employment of children under a specific age, but they do not go far enough to alleviate the problem. According to the International Labour Organization, 55 nations have passed legislation restricting the employment of children in dangerous situations or categories of work. Forced labour and servitude, for both adults and children, are outlawed in practically every country in the world, either by the constitution or labour regulation. Furthermore, penal laws prohibit the use of children as prostitutes or the production of pornographic content.

  • Spread awareness

Parental understanding of the dangers of child labour can help to prevent disruptions in school and the forced labour of children. Sometimes because of guardians’ or parents’ lack of understanding, child traffickers target children, and many trafficked children end up working as child labourers. Communities that are aware can better understand and respond to the problems that children face because of child labour. Awareness also assures that communities take advantage of growth, education, job, and entrepreneurial opportunities, resulting in a more developed social and economic society with fewer children suffering. Various non-governmental organisations are trying to educate communities on the importance of child rights through community events, sports, the arts, and theatre.

  • More stringent laws and effective implementation

Long-term societal change involves policymaking, and advocating for better laws necessitates explaining why change is desirable. NGOs conduct research and disseminate information on exploited children, as well as providing case studies to show how their efforts assist children. Collaboration with a number of organizations, including the media, politicians, people, and other members of civil society, is required to drive policy change. Many cases have been brought that have resulted in additional convictions, demonstrating the law’s effectiveness in preventing child trafficking. NGOs also collaborate with local and state officials to keep a close check on the implementation of pro-child legislation.

  • Sending more children to educational institutions

Almost every country has an educational system, but due to low enrolment, it faces the challenge of poor literacy. Education instils in students a sense of teamwork and discipline, which aids in their development as well as the nation’s growth and development in the future. Education teaches and moulds a child’s communication skills and assists them in working as a team. Several initiatives are being implemented by organisations to increase the number of youngsters enrolled in schools. Out-of-school children and those on the verge of dropping out are tracked by the organisation, which ensures that they are brought back into the educational fold.

  • Discouraging child labour 

When businesses or firms openly exploit child labour in fields like retail, hospitality, and menial labour, it receives a resounding endorsement. Today, NGOs educate communities about reporting cases of child labour in companies and households, as well as sensitise trade organisations to prevent this social evil. 

  • Supporting NGOs

Non-governmental organizations offer immediate aid to victims of child labour, while also working for long-term societal change through policy change. The NGO works to ensure that existing policies are implemented. They rescue thousands of children from child labour, in the world ongoing relief and rescue missions. Presently they focus on education and a new life for millions of children affected by armed conflict and exploitation. The NGO works with state or national level authorities or international level authorities, including various departments of state to prevent child exploitation incidence in the world where the vulnerability of children is high.

Example of India, a Third World country 

Many developing countries have extensive national child labour legislation, but weak enforcement measures. India is one of the good examples of a third world country that took steps in the direction to eradicate the evil of child labour from society. ‘No child under the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment,’ states Article 24 of the Indian Constitution. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986) prohibits children under the age of 14 from working in a variety of occupations, including carpet weaving, but exempts work done with the child’s family.

The Act also governs the hours and working conditions of children under the age of 14 who are employed. In 1976, the Indian parliament declared bonded labour illegal. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976) prohibits the economic and physical abuse of the weaker sections of the society, frees all bonded labourers, and makes it illegal to compel another to perform any bonded labour. The Supreme Court of India has held that bonded labour is an affront to human dignity and a violation of fundamental constitutional rights. Pakistan, which is also classified as a third-world country, has similar legislation.

Why does the problem of child labour continue

  • Inadequate laws

Labour legislation in many developing countries is inadequate. Almost always, the regulations do not apply to specific areas of the economy where child labour is pervasive, exploitative, and dangerous. Domestic service, agriculture, and wholesale and retail trades, for example, are exempt from many countries’ labour laws. Other exemptions include family companies and businesses with less than ten employees. Furthermore, it is frequently asserted that the minors employed in specific industries are independent contractors rather than factory employees. As a result, the factories can evade the legislation.

  • Enforcement issue

Enforceability is a major issue. For a variety of economic and socio-cultural factors, the enforcement mechanism in most developing countries is insufficient. Labour departments and ministries are understaffed and underfunded. Because labour inspectors are underpaid, they are vulnerable to bribery. The issue of child labour is just one of many challenges that need to be addressed. In the Philippines, for example, there are fewer than 200 inspectors for nearly 400,000 employers. Child labour regulations are difficult to enforce because the enforcement division is not accountable to the entity responsible for the creation and implementation of child labour policy.

  • Less awareness

There are a number of complaints that are being unaddressed related to child labour because children and their parents in poor nations are typically unaware of their rights and are often afraid to report abuse to the concerned authority for their enforcement of their rights. Furthermore, the parents rely on the revenue generated by their children’s work to buy food and to pay off their debts.

  • Supervision issue

Investigators must also cover a lot of ground in terms of geographical location. A further problem is that many minors work in establishments that are not legally recognised by the government. Children are employed by a wide range of businesses, including small farms, tiny workplaces in the urban informal sector, and private properties in the case of family businesses. It’s incredibly difficult to detect the usage of child domestic servants and children doing housework. Even when labour investigators are successful in bringing accused violators before a judicial tribunal, the penalties imposed on them are frequently insufficient to serve as deterrents. Raids by crusading non-governmental organisations carried out in front of worldwide television cameras, do little to enforce the law. Nonetheless, public awareness of child labour conditions around the world has increased, putting the issue firmly on the worldwide agenda.

Codes of conduct, independent investigations, and self-regulation 

More sensitive commercial firms have begun to draught rules of conduct to address the problem of children who are forced to labour in hazardous environments. Such codes, progressively adopted by multinational enterprises or importers in industrialised countries in Western Europe and North America, require that branches and suppliers of these multinationals and importers in developing countries appreciate a set of fundamental workers’ rights, including the right of children not to be subjected to forced labor before a certain age.

Child labour does not make good commercial sense, and progressive and foresighted businesses have contributed their support to its control and elimination. In some cases, corporations have even managed to capitalize on ethical marketing campaigns. Britain’s Body Shop has made substantial profits on its ‘trade not aid‘ slogans. While the company has been criticized in the media for doing more harm than good in some developing countries, its marketing successes point to the fact that companies can take the lead on measures to improve the lives of people in undeveloped countries. Others, on the other hand, have been expected to react to negative publicity about the use of child labour in the creation of their products.

A growing number of American corporations have hired high-profile lawyers, former government officials, and diplomats to conduct what the companies say are independent investigations into their affairs. Nike, looking to shake off the criticisms of consumer groups and non-governmental organizations, hired Goodworks International, an American company owned by Andrew Young, a former mayor of Atlanta and a former ambassador to the United Nations, to monitor Nike’s labour practices. However, according to critics of such schemes, so-called independent investigators are engaged for their reviews and advertising value and are paid by the corporations themselves.

As well-intentioned as the importing and retailing companies in the industrialized consuming states may be, the participation of local employers in developing countries is crucial to the successful reduction and abolition of child labour. As key contributors to economic development in their countries and communities, employers need to be aware of their effect on human resource development. Employers can either hinder or enhance the development of future human capacities depending on their labour practises. Employers can benefit their society and the long-term health of business and industry by eliminating their reliance on child labour and carefully protecting the development of children who work. Employers’ groups can also play a key role in promoting progressive child labour policies. Working with the makers of items that use child labour, as well as the companies that operate as intermediaries between international producers and retailers, is undeniably a part of the answer to the plight of child labour.

Self-regulation is another option that several Western businesses have explored. British retailers, who have shown no commitment to the Rugmark label, prefer to police the carpet-producing firms themselves, looking for proof of child labour abuses.


Child labour is a serious issue that is hampered by a number of reasons. Child labour is prevalent in third-world nations for a variety of causes that are complex and firmly ingrained in society. Poverty appears to be the root of the problem. Poor children, on the whole, contribute to household revenue. Both urban and rural areas have child labour. However, because poverty is more prevalent in rural regions, the vast bulk of child labour happens there. Despite the fact that many poor rural families strive for a better life in cities, this forces parents to compel their children to work in order to supplement the family’s income and secure survival. According to various studies, children under the age of fourteen are still involved in economic activity in third-world countries like India, Nigeria, etc. Because these children work more, they are less likely to attend school on a regular basis.

Other factors, such as a lack of schools, a lack of regulations and enforcement, corruption, a lack of awareness, and rapid population increase, can all contribute to poverty. Any attempt to solve this problem should consider the problem’s core cause and possible solutions. Corruption has the potential to bring the country to its knees. One of the key reasons for the problem is poverty and low education; yet, there is no miracle remedy. However, continual and consecutive management of a country’s resources and prospects, on the other hand, contributes to continuing development. Building and establishing a new culture in which people refrain from corruption and accept responsibility for the development of their country is the only way for the country to survive any obstacles like child labour it may face.

It is essential to listen to children in order to succeed in the fight against child labour. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child emphasises that children have the right to express themselves and have their opinions heard on issues that affect them. Children have the ability to prevent and respond to child labour in significant ways. They are crucial players in the child protection system and may provide vital insight into how they view their role and what they anticipate from the government and the community. In a nutshell, emancipating children is the key to reducing child labour.


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