The prevention of child labour requires an understanding of its underlying causes and the consideration of a wide range of issues which may increase the risk of child labour, that often interfere and reinforce one another, such as inadequate family income and poor or non-existent educational facilities.
Key risk factors include:
- High rates of poverty and unemployment, especially where there is a lack of state support (e.g. unemployment benefits). In regions where adult unemployment is high, children may be required to work to assist the family.
- Low wages can exacerbate the prevalence of poverty and drive the need for children to work alongside their parents to supplement household income (see Living Wage issue).
- Lack of educational opportunities for children due to a lack of school facilities or where school tuition costs and educational materials are considered too expensive. Where educational facilities or other forms of childcare are missing, children tend to accompany (and often help) their parents at work.
- Lack of safe alternative pathways to employment results in adolescents finding themselves moving from one form of hazardous work to another. The alternative is for adolescents to have access to safe work that could lead to long-term employment.
- Poorly enforced domestic labour laws due to a lack of government resources, capacity or commitment to fully implement state duty to protect citizens against human rights violations. This can result in a lack of or inadequate training of labour inspectors, as well as improper payments made by employers to (sometimes poorly compensated) inspectors to overlook child labour violations.
- Informal economies are associated with higher child labour risks. Informality often leads to lower and less regular incomes, inadequate and unsafe working conditions, extreme job precarity and exclusion from social security schemes, among other factors. All of these can spur families to turn to child labour in the face of financial distress.
- Rural areas are also associated with a higher prevalence of child labour. There are 122.7 million rural children (13.9%) in child labour compared to 37.3 million urban children (4.7%). Job opportunities are often scarce in rural areas, leaving children to find work to assist their families, with government oversight of these areas much lower.
- Intersectionality, or the interaction between gender, race, ethnicity, age and other categories of difference, leads to increased child labour risks. For example, girls from an ethnic minority living in poor rural areas may be more exposed to the risks of child labour exploitation.