Indicator Name, Target and Goal

Indicator 8.7.1: Proportion and number of children aged 5-17 years engaged in child labour, by sex and age

Target 8.7: Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all


Definition and Rationale


This indicator is defined as the number of children (aged 5-17 years) reported to be in child labour during the reference period (usually a week prior to the survey). 


Child labour refers to the subset of children’s activities that is injurious, negative or undesirable to children and that should be targeted for elimination. Child labour is legally interpreted as per the ILO convention no. 138 (minimum age), ILO convention no. 182 (worst forms), and the UN convention on the rights of the child (CRC). For further information, see: Resolution concerning statistics of child labour[1], adopted by the Eighteenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians (2008).   

For measurement purposes, child labour is defined to include all persons aged 5 to 17 years who are engaged in one or more of the following activities during a specified time period:

(1)    Hazardous work, i.e. work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children, as defined by national law (18th ICLS paragraphs 20-31);
(2)    Worst forms of child labour other than hazardous work, i.e. all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, commercial sexual exploitation of children and children in illicit activities., as defined by national law (18th ICLS paragraph 19); and
(3)    Employment below the minimum working age, as defined by national law, excluding “light work” performed by children aged not less than 12 or 13 years (18th ICLS paragraph 32 to 35). 

Rationale and Interpretation:

Engaging and trapping children in labour compromises their future. Tracking statistics on child labour enables development of appropriate regulatory frameworks and policies that are required to curtail child labour practices. This indicator is a direct measure of progress on target 8.7.

Data Sources and Collection Method

Household surveys such as National Labour Force Surveys, National Multipurpose Household Surveys, UNICEF supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), ILO-supported Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour (SIMPOC), and World bank Living Standard Measurement surveys (LSMS) are among the most important instruments for generating information on child labour in developing countries.

Method of Computation and Other Methodological Considerations

Computation Method:

The proportion of children of the age group a that are engaged in child labour (PCLa) is calculated as follows:


NCLa is the number of children in the age group a that are engaged in child labour;

TNCa is the total number of children in the age group a; and

 a can be any desired age group (i.e. 5-14 years, 5-17 years etc.) 

The measurement methodology used by the ILO in its global estimates on child labour[1], building on the 18th ICLS statistical definition, classifies child labour on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Hazardous work for all children aged 5-17 years old
  • Children aged 5-11 years old performing at least one hour of economic activities during the reference week;
  • Children aged 12-14 years old performing more than 14 hours of economic activities during the reference week
  • Worst forms of child labour other than hazardous work (forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation of children, children in illicit activities, etc.).

Comments and limitations:

Child labour estimates based on the standards set out in the ICLS are useful benchmarks but are not necessarily consistent with estimates based on national child labour legislation. ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No.138)  contains a number of flexibility clauses that leave determination of child labour thresholds (e.g. minimum ages, scope of application) to the discretion of competent national authorities. Moreover, the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) explicitly leaves the responsibility to establish the types of work considered as hazardous to the national authorities. Therefore, there is no single legal definition of child labour across countries and thus, no single statistical measure of child labour consistent with national legislation across countries. 

Proxy, alternative and additional indicators:

If, depending upon national policies and circumstances, the general production boundary rather than the SNA production boundary is used for measuring productive activities by children, child labour will include, in addition to the three categories specified under the section titled ‘Concepts’, hazardous unpaid household services. For the sake of clarity, child labour estimated on this basis should be called “child labour (general production boundary basis” (18th ICLS paragraphs 36-37).

[1] ILO-IPEC. Marking progress against child labour - Global estimates and trends 2000-2012 / International Labour Office, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) - Geneva: ILO, 2013.

Data Disaggregation

It is required to disaggregate this indicator by sex and age.

For reporting at national level, it is recommeded to disaggregate this indicator by area of residence, other relevant geographic disaggregation, school attendance, measures of household income, industry and hours of work.


Official SDG Metadata URL

Internationally agreed methodology and guideline URL
ILO, Manual for child labour data analysis and statistical reports, available at  

ILO, Child Labour Statistics: Manual on methodologies for data collection through surveys, AVAILABLE AT 

Other references
UNICEF Briefing Notes on SDG Indicators:
UNICEF. Briefing notes on SDG global indicators related to children. Available at 

Additional References:
ILO (2008). 18th International Conference of Labour Statisticians: Report of the Conference. Geneva. Available at:

ILO. National child labour survey reports. Available at:

UNICEF. Understanding Children’s Work. Internet site:

UNICEF. Data: Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women. Internet site:

ILO. Child labour statistics. Internet site: 

Country examples

International Organization(s) for Global Monitoring

This document was prepared based on inputs from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and International Labour Organization (ILO).

For focal point information for this indicator, please visit

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