Skip to main content

Assessing Child Labor in West Africa Cocoa Farming

Small, family run farm in highlands of Costa Rica is making beautiful organic chocolate - everything from harvesting cacao, over fermenting, drying, roasting, peeling, grinding to the chocolate and butter production.
The largest-ever examination of child labor in the cocoa sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana
  • Client
    Bureau of International Labor Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor
  • Dates
    2015 - 2020


Efforts to reduce child labor in cocoa farming required a better understanding of the problem.  

According to estimates, millions of children — as young as five years old and often in hazardous conditions — worked in cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the world’s biggest sources of cocoa. More in-depth research and data were needed to determine the prevalence of child labor in this sector and which children were at the greatest risk. In addition, policymakers needed to better understand what social and economic factors were pushing children into this work and what efforts, principally by governments, would most effectively reduce their numbers.  


NORC conducted the most ambitious in-person surveys ever in cocoa country. 

Over the 2018-19 harvest season, NORC deployed researchers to conduct thousands of face-to-face interviews with representative individuals throughout cocoa-growing areas in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Governments and members of the multinational cocoa and chocolate industry worked cooperatively with our teams. In the end, we gave questionnaires to 2,809 household heads and 5,552 children, and administered hundreds of group surveys at schools and other locations. The unprecedented depth of our research allowed us to conclude that in farm families in cocoa country, more than a third of children in Côte d’Ivoire and just over half in Ghana worked in cocoa cultivation. Almost everyone was engaged in dangerous tasks. 


Our study informed global pressure and industry pledges to end child labor in cocoa farming. 

In October 2020, NORC issued a report that generated global media attention. The findings prompted the World Cocoa Foundation, whose members include major chocolate and cocoa companies like Nestle and Cargill, to pledge to eliminate child labor. Their action plan includes partnering with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to diversify rural economies, raise farm pay, increase school funding, and enforce employment laws. “Child labor has no place in the cocoa supply chain,” the World Cocoa Foundation wrote in a forward to our report. Based on our research, coordinated interventions are effective in keeping children away from cocoa farming.  

Project Leads

“This project was both extremely interesting and very fulfilling. And the work has had an impact — people are using the information and data to push the issue forward.”

Project Director

“This project was both extremely interesting and very fulfilling. And the work has had an impact — people are using the information and data to push the issue forward.”

Explore NORC Global Projects

Bangladesh Apparel Industry Study

Supporting efforts to improve worker protections in the informal ready-made-garment sector


Global Fund to End Modern Slavery

Building Evidence for Decision-Making (BE4D)

High-quality evidence, learning, and adaptive management services for USAID program decisions


U.S. Agency for International Development