UN labour agency reports 'alarming' number of children doing exploitive work
Ten years after launching a worldwide campaign against child labour, the International Labour Organization (ILO) today issued a landmark global study showing that an alarming number of children are trapped in the worst forms of this abusive practice.
"Despite the increasing commitment by governments and their partners to tackle child labour worldwide, it remains a problem on a massive scale," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "While there has been significant progress towards the effective abolition of child labour, the international community still faces a major uphill struggle against this stubbornly pervasive form of work that takes a tragic toll on millions of children around the world."
"A Future Without Child Labour," the ILO's most comprehensive study on the subject, found that 246 million children - or one in every six aged 5 to 17 - are working, while one in every eight - some 179 million children aged 5 to 17 - is still exposed to the worst forms of exploitive jobs which endanger their physical, mental or moral well-being.
Some 8.4 million children are caught in slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, forced labour, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities, according to the report.
"The important thing that we've done in this report is to move from denial to awareness," Mr. Somavia told a press briefing in New York. He stressed the need to ensure that parents are at work and children are at school. "If parents don't have a job, access to employment, the possibility for income, inevitably there is going to be pressure on children," he observed, calling for communities to establish "child-labour-free zones."
Based on its research, the ILO is calling for the approximately 111 million children currently doing hazardous jobs to be "immediately withdrawn from this work." It is also recommending "urgent and immediate protection" for the additional 59 million youths aged 15 to 17, who must also be withdrawn from such work.
The release of the report was timed to coincide with the General Assembly's three-day special session on children, which is set to open on Wednesday. The study will also be discussed at an ILO meeting on 12 June in Geneva, when the agency plans to launch an International Day Against Child Labour aimed at stopping the practice.