International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 63, Issue 5, pp 663–672 | Cite as

Child labour and health: a systematic review

  • Brice Lionel Batomen KuimiEmail author
  • Oduro Oppong-Nkrumah
  • Jay Kaufman
  • Jose Ignacio Nazif-Munoz
  • Arijit Nandi



This study aimed to synthesise the available knowledge, identify unexplored areas and discuss general limits of the published evidence. We focused on outcomes commonly hypothesised to be affected by child labour: nutritional status, harmful exposures and injuries.


Four electronic databases (EMBASE, MEDLINE, Scopus, ISI Web of Science) were searched in November 2017. All articles published since 1996, without restrictions on language, were considered for inclusion.


Out of the 1090 abstracts initially identified by the search, 78 articles were selected for inclusion and reviewed. Most of the studies were conducted in Asia and South America, and only a third of them compared working children to a control group of non-working children. Child labour appears to be associated with poor nutritional status, diseases due to harmful exposures, and a higher prevalence of injuries.


Despite evidence for a negative relation between child work and health, the cross-sectional design of most studies limits the causal interpretation of existing findings. More rigorous observational studies are needed to confirm and better quantify these associations.


Child labour Child employment Child welfare Injury Safety Underweight Harmful exposure 



This study was founded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant, “Examining the impact of social policies on health equity” (ROH-115209), the Foundation Grant “Development epidemiology: identifying evidence-based interventions for improving population health and promoting health equity (FRN 148467), and the Canada Research Chairs program.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Supplementary material

38_2018_1075_MOESM1_ESM.docx (191 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 190 kb)


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© Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, Faculty of MedicineMcGill UniversityWest MontrealCanada
  2. 2.Institute for Health and Social PolicyMeredith Charles HouseWest MontrealCanada

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