Despite international commitments made by nearly all 193 United Nations member states, dozens of countries lack important legal protections against children doing work that could be harmful or interfere with their education.

The finding is from a study by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, published today in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy.

The analysis revealed that 41 countries do not protect children and youth under the age of 18 from performing hazardous work, although that figure is 74 nations when legal loopholes are taken into account. In 47 countries, the minimum legal age for employment is below 15, despite evidence that work at an early age is associated with negative effects on health and education; and the minimum age is that low in 85 countries when legal loopholes are considered. In Bolivia, for example, it is estimated that one quarter of all 5- to 14-year-olds are performing labor; in Nepal, an estimated 37% of 5- to 14-year-olds are working.

“There is no justification for ever allowing children to perform hazardous work,” said Dr. Jody Heymann, the senior author of the study, and the founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center and a distinguished professor at the Fielding School. “While countries around the world have recognized this, we still have a long way to go to ensure that the laws are in place at a national level to protect all children from these types of jobs.”

Read the full news release.