Effects of Child Labour on Students’ Academic Performance


Child labor is the employment of a child in a business or industry especially in violation of state or federal statutes prohibiting the employment of children under a specified age (Beegle, Dehejia, & Gatti, 2009). Child labor affects schooling, but poor performance in school might also impact child labor. Children need a nurturing household and social environment in order to grow into economically active, productive adults with the ability to participate effectively in the social, cultural, and political activities in society. However some children are affected by child labor. According to estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO) (2017), there are about 152 million child laborers aged between 5 to 17 in the world, 73 million of whom are working in what are referred to as the worst forms of child labor, often involving hazardous conditions. Among 152 million children in child labor, 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls. 58% of all children in child labor and 62% of all children in hazardous work are boys. Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labor than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic child labor. The forms of labor these children are involved in include: armed conflict, forced and bonded labor, prostitution, pornography, drug trafficking, and other illicit activities. Studies have shown that there is an association between child labour and students’ academic performance. This article provides an overview of the effects of child labour on academic performance and solutions to address the issue.

Effects of Child Labor

According to Holgadoa,. et al., (2014), there are a number of factors related to child labor that lead to poor performance. The study showed that labor conditions, the number of weekly hours dedicated to work, and the presence of work scheduled in the morning negatively affected the academic performance of child laborers. Further review of literature shows that educational attainment is greatly affected by participation of children in child labor. This is because very few children can attend school and work at the same time as these activities usually run concurrently. Those who attend school and also work find it difficult to give their school work attention it deserves; therefore ends up doing badly at school. For most children, the choice to be made is that of either to attend school or working (Cardoso & Verner, 2006).

A study by Omwenga (‎2015) showed that child labor may lead to poor performance, failure and high dropout rates among child laborers. Another finding by Heady (2003) showed that works assigned to child laborers not only leave children too tired to learn, but also rob them of their interest in learning. Further, Heady notes that children who are already contributing economically to their family income may be less interested in academic achievement, resulting in lack of motivation that affects both their learning and their future prospects.

Heady (2003) further illustrated that work interferes with schooling because it requires too much of children’s time balancing the demands of work and education. it places physical and  psycho-social strain on children and often leads to poor academic performance and drop out. Work may demand extensive physical energy, so that the child lacks the energy required for school attendance or effective study. As a result of fatigue and a lack of leisure activities to support physical, social and emotional development, the child will experience very little mental stimulation and will end up neglecting his or her studies (Diaz, 2009. Various other studies show similar trend on the negative effect of child labor on academic performance.

Solutions to Address the Issue of Child Labour

Owing to the effects of child labor on academic performance, this article provides an overview of the major solutions.

Involving children in decision making process: The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for children to participate in important decisions that will affect their lives. Bonnal (2007) says that one of the most important ways to help child workers is to ask their opinions, and involve them in constructing “solutions” to their own problems.

Other solutions include working towards increased family incomes, providing education that helps children learn skills that will help them earn a living; having social services that help children and families survive life crises such as disease, or loss of home and shelter and encouraging family control of fertility so that families are not burdened by children.

The issue of child labour could also be addressed by designing and implementing effective policy framework and setting legal and regulatory environment that discourages child labor. 


To teach responsible and caring behaviors, adults must first model caring behaviors with young children as they do with other adults. While modeling, focus should be on the avoidance of any form of child labor. This does not mean raising lazy children but drawing a limit on the amount of domestic chores children should be subjected to so as to give room for children to pursue schooling without domestic interference and therefore enhance their academic performance. 


Bequele, A., & Boyden, J. (Eds.). (1988). Combating child labour. International Labour Organization.

Beegle, K., Dehejia, R., & Gatti, R. (2009). Why should we care about child labor? The education, labor market, and health consequences of child labor. Journal of Human Resources44(4), 871-889.

Bonnal, M. (2007). Child labor, openness, human capital and technology: A panel data approach. Openness, Human Capital and Technology: A Panel Data Approach (September 2007).

Cardoso, A. R., & Verner, D. (2006). School drop-out and push-out factors in Brazil: The role of early parenthood, child labor, and poverty.

García-Holgado, A., García-Peñalvo, F. J., & Rodríguez-Conde, M. J. (2015, October). Definition of a technological ecosystem for scientific knowledge management in a PhD Programme. In Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Technological Ecosystems for Enhancing Multiculturality (pp. 695-700). ACM.

McGuire, A. L., Diaz, C. M., Wang, T., & Hilsenbeck, S. G. (2009). Social networkers’ attitudes toward direct-to-consumer personal genome testing. The American journal of bioethics9(6-7), 3-10.

Mendelievich, E. (1979). Child labour. Int’l Lab. Rev.118, 557.

Omwenga, P. C. (2015). The effect of child labour on academic achievement of primary school pupils: a case of Voi division of Voi district, Taita-Taveta County Kenya (Doctoral dissertation, Moi University).