Child Labor Summary Report

National Inquiry on Child Labor was conducted to assess the situation of children engaged in hard labor and to make advocacy to address the problems faced by this group at the social and cultural level as well as in the legal system of Afghanistan. Children is a highly vulnerable group that so far has not received enough attention from people, policy-makers and planners, as well as government officials. To this end, the present study was conducted with a national inquiry and advocacy method, in order to assess the situation of this important group and draw the attention of people, social and government officials to this group.

Definitely, after the publication of this report, it is imperative that the media, social and cultural entities and other sectors in the society start conducting basic discussions on the child labor, in order to draw the attentions of relevant organs to this fundamental dilemma in the society, so that necessary action will be taken to address and resolve the existing problems.

The information for this study was collected by holding 13 public hearing meeting in 13 provinces of the country and conducting 40 focus group sessions in 21 provinces of the country, and completing 657 questionnaires in 25 provinces of the country. Public hearing meetings and focus group meetings were attended by various groups of the people, including members of provincial councils, representatives of justice and judicial organs, experts, university professors, representatives of civil society organizations and media, security organs, religious scholars, and elderlies.

The summary of the findings of this national inquiry is as follows:

Basic concepts

Initially, the child, child labor, worker children and hard labor are described in this section as the main concepts. The concepts are defined based on the resources available in this field, the views of social and legal scholars, as well as the applicable national and international laws are also considered in the description of these concepts.

Based on the research conducted, child is anyone below 18 years of age.  Studies have also shown that child worker refers to a child who contrary to his or her age requirement, engages in serious and hard works during the day or night, like an adult, in order to earn money.

And hard work includes works that are physically, psychologically, socially and ethically dangerous, preventing the child's physical and spiritual growth, and deny his inherent rights, such as the right to health, liberty, education and play.

The legal basis for the prohibition of child labor

In the second step, in order to obtain information about the legal status of child labor, investigation was made into the prohibition of child labor based on two types of law:

First, International Law, including International Labor Organization Convention No. 138 on the determination of the minimum age for admission to employment, 1973, the Worst Form of Child Labor Convention, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Second, National Laws include: Articles 48 and 49 of the Constitution, Article 13 of the Labor Law, Articles 3 and 13 of the Law on the custodianship, and the formation of special courts, based on which child labor has been forbidden and, in many cases, child labor is considered as an example of hard labor, which is prohibited under the Constitution and Article 4 of the Labor Law.

Research findings

  1. The demographic status of the child worker

However, the information in this research has not been totally collected through the questionnaire, but questionnaires, in all cases, form the basis of the information of this national inquiry. In the first part, which relates to the demographics of the respondents, we obtained contextual information about the respondents.

This information includes age, gender, civil status, disability status, geographical dispersion, the status of being away from family, number of family members, family income earner, displacement and repatriation.

The age of the children shows a wide range, ranging between 7 to 18 years of age, but the findings show that more than 80% of child workers are above the age of 12. In some cases, some relatively common and expected information was obtained; for example, in term of gender, the majority were male, with 92.5%.

In the civil status, married children making up (0.8%) is relatively a lower figure, most of children (98%) were single. Disability made up 3%. Being away form family also made up 3%, although 3% is a small figure, but children need to be with their families during their childhood, and the harms resulting from absence of such children from their family would be irreparable.

The number of family members of the child workers with an average of 9 people is a relatively high figure, which with regard to the poverty of families, can have a contributing role in the employment of children in hard work. The findings showed that 68% of the household expenses were earned by their parents and 21% by children. Displacement and repatriation of children accounted for 33%.

  1. Child labor situation

Child labor findings were obtained though questionnaires and group observations. In this part, types of hard work, day and night shift, hours of work, satisfaction and dissatisfaction of children with their work and the reasons for it, children’s income and the amount of income children receive are discussed. However, in this part, the cause and factors of child labor are also highlighted, but because of its importance, it is reported in a separate section also.

The findings of the inquiry showed that the types of work that children are engaged in are more than what were predicted in the questionnaire. In the questionnaire there were 23 types of works, which were further added to according to the findings.  Apprenticeship in the shops, workshop, hotel and bakeries, shoemaking shop, tinsmith and ... constituted the highest number (50%). The rest of the work, such as sales, garbage collecting, Espandi (waiving smoke made of a kind of herb) and Krachiwani (driving Krachi) made up (10.5%) of the works that are engaged by children.

The findings showed that more than 90% of children work more than 35 hours a week, while children should not work more than what is predicted in labor law.  Based on these findings, over 60% of them work more than 7 hours a day, and more than 10% of them work at some hours of the night.

Also, the satisfaction of children from their work (56%) compared to their dissatisfaction (43%), is relatively high and contrary to the expectations, but the reasons for children’s satisfaction from their work, made it clear that vocational education (42%) and financial income (49%) have been valued by them. According to data, 84% of children earn money from their work, of which 81% of them pay their wages to their families, and the rest spend their income to purchase food stuff (8.4%), house rent (6%), or savings (4%). 13% of the children do not receive wages, because they work to receive education (35.6%), work at home (21%), work to pay parental loans (11.5%) and work for food (12.6%).

  1.  Children's access to social rights

One of the issues studied in this research was the access of child workers to their rights, which focused on children’s access to education, health, food, and the elimination of violence and sexual harassment against children in the workplace.

According to the findings, 56% of the children were deprived of their education and had serious educational problems due to lack of sufficient time (81%) or being tardy at school (13%). 61% of them were working in a non-healthy or harmful workplace, of which 32% were affected by workplace injury, such as amputation (2.4%), fractures (22.2%) and body injury (66%). The findings also showed that a high percentage of children (57%) had illness during their work, and 78% had been treated at a personal expense in state clinics (39%) or personal clinics (61%), and the government contributed only 5 % of the expenses of the treatment of these patients.

About access to food, although most children (59%) have eaten three meals a day, a significant proportion (39%) has received one to two meals a day.

Access to being free from violence and sexual harassment in the workplace is another issue that was highlighted in this study. The findings showed that 40% of children were exposed to stress and threats during their work (33%), humiliation (39%), and more than 28% of them had to do works above their ability, and nearly 16% of them have been sexually abused, most of them have been physical touched (43%).

4.  Child labor factors

Discussing of hard labor factors is one of the main subjects of this research, in which two basic types of factors can be pointed out:

First, economic factors; researchers who have previously assessed the children’s labor have agreed on the importance of these factors, and many of them considered it as the most important factors. The results of this research are compatible with the views of researchers, and more than 81% of them consider economic factors as a reason for engagement of children in hard work, including economic poverty (75.5%), family loan (2%), and the provision of school expenses (4%), however, 10% of them stated that their parent forced them in doing hard work.

Second, socio-cultural factors- although socio-cultural factors have not been predicted in the questionnaire, but the findings of the public hearing and the focus group meetings showed that some social and cultural factors are important in the employment of children, most notably the existence of culture of child labor in the society. Afghanistan is a traditional society with its specific culture. According to sociological theories in traditional societies the process of community-building is shaped more by families and parents, and children grow up on the basis of traditional culture and learn living and working skills alongside their parents or on their orders along with an adult.

War and insecurity, natural disasters, envy, lack of family awareness of children's rights and child labor laws and the harms of children's labor, lack of an independent law on child labor, weakness of law enforcement institutions in ensuring of children’s rights and the implementation of laws, the existence of child exploitation, parents’ addiction, displacement and repatriation, lack of support centers for children’s education and awareness of vocational training, lack of custodians, bad custodian,  disability of family income earner, underage marriage, unemployment, especially the unemployment of educated people, lack of government attention to compulsory education, lack of educational facilities, droughts, increase in population and forcing children to work, and other social and cultural factors that have been obtained in this study.

5.  The consequences of child labor

The findings of this research have shown the consequences that are categorized in three groups: physical, psychological, and sociocultural consequences.

In the physical consequences, of the nine options that were predicted in the part of answers, only two of them- physical disability and mental disability- were mentioned, which accounted for only 3%. But it's important to note that physical disability is very widespread. Based on the data of previous research and information obtained from group discussions in this study they are as follows: body limb defects, short stature (dwarf), weight loss, oral and dental diseases, eye diseases, diseases of the respiratory tract, heart disease, ear and throat diseases, skin diseases, digestive system diseases, memory deficits, learning difficulties, lack of inquisitiveness, lack of environmental knowledge and speech problems.

In the psychological consequences the emergence of the sense of jealousy, revenge and hostility, instability and restlessness, distrust, pessimism and negativity, depression, anxiety, feeling of insecurity and fear were among the consequences of hard labor that have been pointed out in previous investigations and group discussions. In the information obtained from the field, 9% of the consequences related to psychological consequences, the main indicators of which were a feeling of cheapness and addiction.

In the socio-cultural area, there are far more serious consequences that have been found out both in the field research and in the group discussions. The findings in the questionnaire indicate that deprivation of education constitute the highest percentage (59.30%), while deprivation of recreational programs made up (17%), deprivation from being with the family (5.80%). Victim of sex trafficking (2) %) were also important issue that were related to this part.

Additionally, the effects of the consequences of child labor on the society and culture are also undeniable; the consequences such as: aggression and violence, theft and robbery, the purchase and sale of drugs, the destruction of public property, negligence of the rights of others, the difficulty of communicating with others and the tendency towards delinquency currently exists in the society and are, more likely, traceable in previous research.


Based on the findings of this research on the situation of children and its causes and consequences, the following recommendations are presented as follows:

  1. War and insecurity are one of the issues that can be considered as a major contributor to the continued deterioration of the situation of children. Fundamental efforts to eliminate this negative phenomenon must be one of the major national strategies, and the government has a duty to take practical and immediate action, and, regardless of any idealistic approach, consider peace as a basic necessity, and take serious action toward its realization.
  2. What is important in child labor is the weakness of law and dispersion of legal provisions in the field of child labor. It is imperative that all laws relating to persons at risk, including children, be classified under a legal code, and should be kept up to date with regard to child labor. Also, legal mechanisms are needed to be sought to protect children with no guardian or bad guardian, as well as poor children
  3.  Economic poverty is one of the major factors of war. Strengthening the economic sectors, especially the household economy, is the best way to get out of the current situation of child labor; therefore, the government must pay attention to the economic sectors and, expand the private sector and support small and early-outcome private workshops aiming at economic growth and poverty reduction.
  4.  In order to solve the children's problems, a special fund for children should be established and its benefits should be used to address children's problems, especially their access to education, health and nutrition.
  5.  Support centers is one of the issues that are lacking in Afghanistan. This can be due to various reasons like lack of awareness and lack of facilities and so on. It is suggested that the government of Afghanistan should provide the necessary facilities for the establishment of charity and support centers for the poor, the unprotected and the large families with numerous members.
  6.  The government must provide the ground for the realization of the goals of national development and SDGs, and in this regard, the government is undoubtedly obliged to establish a variety of public insurance and social security.
  7.  In order to implement Article 46 of the Constitution, the government should ensure compulsory education for all until the high school level, and in this context, cover the expenses of education for the children of poor families, large families, unprotected children.
  8.  It is suggested to the government to include children's rights and the harms of child labor in the curriculum for the awareness of families and children, and to inform people in this regard through the media in a timely manner.
  9. AIHRC urges the government to develop a national strategy to combat child labor in accordance with the recommendations of the International Labor Organization.
  10. The government must prevent the formal employment of children to hard labor by law, and address the economic problems of families who have to get children working, by creating special centers and decent employment mechanism for children, and provide education opportunities in the workplace.
  11.  The government should regulate population growth based on scientific principles and in accordance with the country's possibilities and needs.
  12. Because of the importance of children's issues, it is imperative that government and nongovernmental organizations celebrate children’s international days more seriously, and draw the attention of the people and charitable foundations in this regard by holding academic and press conferences.