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Child labour rises to 160 mn; first increase in 20 years: ILO
By TII News Service
Jun 10, 2021 , Geneva

    

THE number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with 9 million more at risk by the end of 2022 due to the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF.

The ILO warns that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years, reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000-16.

The report points to a significant rise in the number of children aged 5-11 years in child labour, who now account for just over half of the total global figure. The number of children aged 5-17 years in hazardous work – defined as work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morals – has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016.

"The new estimates are a wake-up call. We cannot stand by while a new generation of children is put at risk," said ILO Director-General Mr Guy Ryder. "Inclusive social protection allows families to keep their children in school even in the face of economic hardship. Increased investment in rural development and decent work in agriculture is essential

The report warns that globally, 9 million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic, and the numbers could rise to 46 million if they don’t have access to critical social protection coverage.

"Additional economic shocks and school closures caused by COVID-19 mean that children already in child labour may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, while many more may be forced into the worst forms of child labour due to job and income losses among vulnerable families," the report said.

Children in child labour are at risk of physical and mental harm as it compromises their education, restricting their rights and limiting their future opportunities, and leads to vicious inter-generational cycles of poverty and child labour.

"We are losing ground in the fight against child labour, and the last year has not made that fight any easier," said UNICEF Executive Director Ms Henrietta Fore. "Now, well into a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions, and shrinking national budgets, families are forced to make heart-breaking choices."

According to the report, the agriculture sector accounts for 70 per cent of children in child labour (112 million) followed by 20 per cent in services (31.4 million) and 10 per cent in industry (16.5 million). Further, nearly 28 per cent of children aged 5-11 years and 35 per cent of children aged 12-14 years in child labour are out of school.

Moreover, child labour is more prevalent among boys than girls at every age and the prevalence of child labour in rural areas (14 per cent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (5 per cent).

To reverse the upward trend in child labour, the ILO and UNICEF are calling for adequate social protection for all, increased spending on free and good-quality schooling and getting all children back into school, promotion of decent work for adults, and an end to harmful gender norms and discrimination.

As part of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, the global partnership Alliance 8.7, of which UNICEF and ILO are partners, is encouraging member states, business, trade unions, civil society, and regional and international organisations to redouble their efforts in the global fight against child labour by making concrete action pledges.

 
 
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