Spain – "Stolen childhood": the plague of child labour endured by more than 160 million children around the world

12 June 2023

(ANS – Madrid) – The World Day against Child Labour commemorated today, 12 June, has aimed since 2002 to raise awareness of this plague that affects more than 160 million children around world and make it known. These are children who cannot go to school, barely have time to eat, do not even rest on weekends and do not know what it means to play with other children. Many of them start working even before they know how to read and write... They should go to school and instead carry out activities as adults and indeed, in almost half of the cases (79 million of them), they are involved in activities dangerous to health.

At the age of 11, Shindar worked in a brick kiln in southern India. She lives with her two sisters and the husband of one of them, who was in debt to the owner of the furnace. “She slept in a corner on a little mat and only had half a day's rest a week.” Elda is 13 years old and comes from Bolivia. Having lost her father, she sold empanadas with her mother on a boulevard in the city of Santa Cruz. “I got up very early to help my mother and came home very late” she says.

In both cases, it was the Salesians who intervened so that the children could stop working, go to school and interact with other children like them. “Now I attend catch-up classes and I have many friends” Elda continues.

Children are an inexpensive, quiet and easily replaceable workforce. Child labour also means that these children are far from their families and exposed to all kinds of abuse. They are silent and obedient workers because they do not know their rights or about other things. More than 160 million children, one in 10 in the world, endure this social scourge.

Loading and moving goods in stations, working in the fields or as street vendors on streets, in factories, mines or as domestic workers… These are just some of the occupations that children carry out all over the world and that deprive them of going to school and enjoying childhood. Many even work in conditions of slavery and in activities that are very harmful to their health. “Study or work?” this is a question that should never be asked of a child.

The causes of child labour are many: poverty, lack of education, family breakdown, conflicts, inequalities and even the traditions of certain realities. That is why the Salesians, heirs of Don Bosco, visit the markets and factories where millions of children work and even sleep, to talk to employers and families, and make them understand that minors must have time to go to school, play and rest. They remove these children from child labour so that they can regain their childhood and carry out activities appropriate to their age.

To combat child labour and exploitation, Misiones Salesianas, the Salesian Mission Office based in Madrid, has launched the Infancia robadas (Stolen Childhood) campaign. “We do not want these daily and silent scourges to continue to increase, and we want all children to have the opportunity to access education and stop being adults before their time” commented the Salesians from Madrid.

To confront this social scourge and reaffirm the fundamental right to childhood, the Canillitas documentary will premiere in Madrid on 21 September, starring five working children from the Dominican Republic whose encounter with the Salesians of Don Bosco has brought them closer to school and the desire to realise their dreams, and is gradually taking them away from work on the road.

“We know that change begins with a pencil, a blackboard and a teacher, and that is why we insist that education and accompaniment are the keys to our work in the world,” Misiones Salesianas concluded.

Every year, all over the world, following the example of Don Bosco, the Salesians and their collaborators transform thousands of children into people who can control their own lives thanks to education, with great opportunities for the future.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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