On the occasion of World Day against Child Labour, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is urging increased efforts to eradicate child labor as its prevalence is experiencing a global increase for the first time in two decades.
According to the most recent data, approximately 160 million children which accounts for nearly 1 in 10 children worldwide, are involved in child labor. Among them, half are engaged in the most hazardous forms, such as agriculture, construction, mining, and domestic work. The ILO emphasizes that the observance of June 12 aims to stimulate the global movement against child labour.
African children lack protection
UNICEF reports that the increase in population, ongoing crises, extreme poverty, and inadequate social protection measures have resulted in an additional 17 million boys and girls becoming involved in child labor in sub-Saharan Africa over the past four years.
In 2022, the 5th Global Conference for the Elimination of Child Labour adopted the Durban Call to Action, which was intended to serve as a comprehensive plan for combating child labor. The call emphasized the need for a strong legal framework, universal access to education, and poverty reduction as crucial components to address this issue.
However, the International Labour Organization acknowledges that economic growth has not been adequate or inclusive enough to alleviate the underlying pressures that drive families and communities to resort to child labour.
According to estimates from the UN agency, over 72 million children in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for nearly one in five children, are impacted by child labour. During an event in Geneva, ILO Assistant Director-General Manuela Tomei stated that child labour is increasing for the first time in two decades.
Reasons behind Child Labour
A combination of conflicts, crises, both natural and human-made, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in an increase in poverty among families, leading to a significant rise in child labor worldwide.
The ILO highlights that Africa has the highest number of child laborers, surpassing 72 million children, out of which 31.5 million are engaged in hazardous forms of work. The report also mentions that Asia and the Pacific region rank second in terms of child labor numbers. Together, these three regions account for nearly 90% of all children involved in labor globally.
Effects on children
These children are compelled to work for long hours, receive inadequate wages, and are exposed to perilous conditions that endanger both their physical and mental well-being, potentially leading to fatal outcomes.
The ILO has recently reported that the rise in child labour can be attributed to conflicts, crises, and the COVID-19 pandemic. These factors have resulted in increased poverty among families, pushing millions of children into engaging in this practice.
Voice against the odds
25 years ago, Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, led a worldwide march against child labour. This movement inspired the international community to intensify their efforts in safeguarding and advancing the rights of children.
During an event organized by ILO to commemorate this year’s World Day Against Child Labor, Satyarthi expressed that he can still sense the fervor and enthusiasm of that time.
He recalled the resounding chants of hundreds of children and their supporters as they marched into the building, demanding an end to child exploitation and advocating for education. Their powerful slogans included – “No more tools in tiny hands. We want books. We want toys. No more child exploitation. We want education.”