Bureau of International Labor Affairs

FY2018 Funding Recommendation:  
$103.5 million


Funding History


       House/Senate FY2017 Request   

       InterAction's FY2018 Recommendation

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 Key Facts

The economic costs of child labor amount to 2.4%-6.6% of the world’s gross national income each year.  The global income foregone as a result of lost schooling incurred by a child’s engagement in hazardous work amounts to $176 billion annually. Eighty-five million children work in hazardous labor that endangers their health through exposure to dangerous chemicals, heavy machinery, poor working conditions and heavy loads.  This work prevents them from attending school and impairs their physical, mental, and social development. Of these children, 5.5 million are in forced labor. Boys and girls work in agriculture, mining, quarrying, fishing, factories, domestic work, construction, markets and shops, and commercial sexual exploitation. Their families often depend on their labor. In low income countries, 86% of employed women and 77% of men are in vulnerable employment.  These jobs jeopardize their health and safety, deny them the rights and voice they need to improve their economic situation, and trap their families at the margins of the global economy.

Since 1995, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) at the U.S. Department of Labor has worked with partners to directly impact the lives of nearly 2 million children vulnerable to exploitative labor, combat forced labor, and provide technical assistance to address worker rights in countries with which the United States has trade agreements or preference programs. ILAB is the only U.S. agency that works to end exploitative child labor and is part of a global effort that has seen the number of children subjected to hazardous labor cut in half since 2000.

ILAB also represents the interests and welfare of U.S. workers by enforcing the labor provisions of U.S. trade agreements and trade preference programs. This includes a growing labor attaché program, which places DOL personnel in U.S. embassies around the world to help nations build the capacity to comply with the labor provisions of trade agreements and trade preference programs.

In cooperation with ILAB, organizations have leveraged their experience to build the capacity of the private sector to address child labor, forced labor, and worker rights issues, including companies working in tobacco, rubber, tea, cocoa, sugarcane, cotton, and many other areas.

InterAction’s FY2018 funding request seeks to ensure ILAB’s continued, positive contribution to ending exploitative child labor and forced labor, as well as fulfilling and monitoring labor commitments under trade agreements. The requested $78.325 million in programmatic funding – an increase of $18.5 million over enacted FY2016 spending levels –  would allow ILAB to continue its work to prevent and respond to exploitative child labor by restoring FY2014/15 levels, increase technical assistance for worker rights to countries with which the U.S. has trade agreement or preference programs to ensure consistency with expanding U.S. trade commitments, and continue the strong evaluation of programs. This total covers:

  • $59 million for grants to combat exploitative child labor internationally;
  • $10 million for programs that address worker rights issues through technical assistance  in countries with which the United States has free trade agreements or trade preference programs;
  • $7.5 million for program evaluation; and
  • $27 million for administration.

Success Story

Program Transforms At-Risk Youth into Leaders

Manuel* joined one of El Salvador's notorious gangs at the age of 14, figuring he would be a member for life. It was easy money for a kid with no parents. And for once, he could live in the world’s most violent country and dish out the beatings instead of taking them.

But after spending a year in jail, he decided to renounce the gangster lifestyle. For Manuel, now 30, leaving the gang was the hardest part. It killed his brother, a pastor in Guatemala, and it nearly killed him. He stayed inside for months after the trauma, paralyzed by the guilt and loss he felt over his brother’s death.

"Kids who are unemployed and who have little education can feel like their life has no purpose or meaning, creating a perfect vacuum which gangs, unfortunately, fill," says Katherine Andrade, program manager for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in El Salvador. "Our programs demonstrate that youth facing extreme exclusion have the power to change the direction of their lives and their communities."

Violence has grown in the last decade as street gangs expand their influence in El Salvador. Nearly half of the population is under 18; most only make it to fifth grade. With many young people out of school and out of work, the likelihood of violence will continue to increase.

"I've realized I want a real home, and to do that, I need to change my way of thinking," Manuel says. "I want to be a good example so what happened to me doesn't happen again."

When he started the CRS program, Manuel trusted no one. It was hard for him to even speak. Teachers and mentors in the program encouraged Manuel and his classmates to talk about the impact the country's insidious violence has had on their lives. When he saw that fellow students did not judge him, he slowly came out of his shell, gradually turning himself around.

Through the six-month training program in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, CRS plans to help 11,000 young people over the next four years build the life and vocational skills needed to find a job or start a business. The Youth Builders model, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, USAID and other donors, teaches conflict resolution, leadership and communication skills, and trains participants to repair computers or work in customer service. It also provides enterprise development training, seed capital, and mentors for those who want to start a small business.

With a total of 4,565 participants, 83% have completed program, and 80% have gone back to school, found employment or started a small business since 2010. The results are a testament to the role young people can play in transforming their lives and their communities – if given a chance.

"What they taught us – the life skills, the work, the community service – it really wakes you up," Manuel says.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Photo: Silverlight for CRS

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