Child Labour during the Industrial Revolution
Children working in a mine shaft
Children working in a mine shaft

Prior to the Industrial Revolution
  • Children worked within the family by doing household chores
  • Children were not expected to produce money for the family; that was the father's job
  • Limited opportunities for education
  • Most people were poor

During the Industrial Revolution
  • The introduction of factories and new mills led to more employment opportunities
  • Children (starting as young as four) were expected to contribute to the family now
  • Women and children began to work in factories, mills, and mines instead of at home
  • The new jobs that the Industrial Revolution brought had high risks and were dangerous

Why was there a drastic increase in child labour during the Industrial Revolution?
Children working in a factory with adults
Children working in a factory with adults

  • It was cheaper to have children workers than adults
  • Physical strength was not always necessary (unlike working on a farm)
  • Small hands were needed to work in the mills
  • Infant mortality rates were reduced significantly

Working Conditions in the Industrial Revolution
  • An average work day was ten hours long with few breaks and strict rules to follow
  • Beating was a common punishment for trying to run away or for not following the rules diligently
  • Children were expected to lift large, heavy, and dangerous equipment in the factories and in the mines
  • Factory owners had the responsibility of feeding the workers. Oatcake was a common food served and it was thick and coarse. Dinner was usually potato pie with extremely fatty boiled bacon. Only three meals were served a day even though the children worked between 10-12 hours a day.

Cripples in the yard of children's home in London
Cripples in the yard of children's home in London

Physical Deformities and Factory Pollution
  • Many died from gas explosions, lung cancer (from pollution such as fumes and toxins) among other diseases
  • Long periods of standing caused the knees to become weak and turn inwards, which became known as knock-knees
  • Dust floating in the air from cotton fibers were inhaled by children over long periods of time causing tuberculosis, bronchitis, and asthma

  • Before the Industrial Revolution, 14% of the workers were under the age of 14 years old1
  • During the Industrial Revolution, over 1.7 million people under the age of fifteen were employed to work in factories and mines by the 1900s2

Pie chart of the workforce in Britain during 1750
Pie chart of the workforce in Britain during 1750

"Child Labour in Britain." Spartacus Educational. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. <>.
"Child Labor in Factories During the Industrial Revolution." Needham Public Schools. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <>.1"Child Labor." The Victorian Web: An Overview. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <>.
"Child Labour." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <>.2