Although most countries have laws against child labor, and it is banned by United Nations' conventions, at least 200 million children aged 5 to 15 are now at work in 71 countries, including the United States. They make up as much as one-third of the workforces in some of the countries.
Many work in slave-like conditions for up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, on farms, in mines, in factories and elsewhere to produce goods for sale here and elsewhere. Or they work in hard, poorly paying menial service jobs.
Most must work, whatever the conditions, if their families are to survive. Among them are children sold into bondage by starving parents or put to work to pay off loans made to their parents.
Many are forced to live in cramped, dirty housing compounds near their workplaces, some as virtual prisoners forbidden to leave without passes from their overseers.
The youngsters' childhood is denied them. They have little time for play and none for schooling. Like their parents, they are doomed to a life of hard work under abysmal and often dangerous conditions, a life of poverty, ignorance and exploitation.