Child labour or labor is the phenomenon of children in employment. In many countries, it is considered inappropriate or exploitative if a child below a certain age works, except for some household chores and of course school work. An employer is often not allowed to hire a child below a certain age. This minimum age depends on the country.
Other forms of work include helping in the parents' business or having one's own small "business", like cleaning car windows, shining shoes, selling small items such as cigarettes, etc. Some children work as a guide for tourists, sometimes combined with working for owners of shops and restaurants, bringing tourists to these businesses. Also there is military use of children, child prostitution and illegal drug trade, illegal trade involving copyright violations (CDs, CD-ROMs, etc.) and there are child actors and child singers.
The voluntarity of such work may vary greatly, but even if a child says he or she wants to work (e.g. because the earnings are attractive or if the child hates school) it may still be an undesirable situation for the child in the long run.
The use of children as laborers is now considered by wealthy countries as a human rights violation, and outlawed, while poorer countries may allow it, as families often rely on the labors of their children for survival and sometimes it is the only source of income.
Child laborer, Newberry, South Carolina. 1908.
The term child labor can have a connotation of systematic exploitation of children for their labor, with little compensation nor consideration for their safety, or health.
International concern has recently been raised in regard to an implied moral complicity of the buying public with child exploitation, through the purchase of products assembled or otherwise manufactured with child labor.
Individuals, corporations, nations, and other entities can often be active in a deliberate, systematic, use of children for their labor, while others will ignore such abuse.
In the west, during the Industrial Revolution, use of child labour was commonplace, often in factories. In the United Kingdom during the Victorian era, a series of Factory Acts were passed to gradually restrict the hours that children were allowed to work, and to improve safety. The United States also has extensive child labor laws.