The United Nations today marked the first World Day Against Child Labour, which aims to call attention to this scourge and boost efforts aimed at eradicating it.
"This first World Day Against Child Labour is intended to help spread the message that child labour remains a serious problem and that we must do more to combat it," said Juan Somavia, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which spearheaded the event. "We are asking everyone to join together in working towards a world where no children will be deprived of a normal, healthy childhood, where parents can find decent jobs and children can go to school."
From now on, the Day will be observed annually to intensify support for the global campaign against child labour and to serve as a catalyst for enhancing the growing worldwide movement against the practice.
According to the ILO, 246 million children - or one in every 6 aged 5 to 17 - are involved in child labour. A recent report by the agency revealed that some 179 million children in that age group are still exposed to the worst forms of child labour, which endanger their mental or moral well-being.
Reacting with "alarm" to these statistics, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) today called on all governments to move immediately and decisively against child labour.
"That so many children should be forced to work - and endure the hardship and abuse that so often comes with it - is more than simply unacceptable; it is unconscionable," said UNICEF chief Carol Bellamy, calling for "decisive leadership" from governments. "They are signatories on international treaties banning such practices," she pointed out. "It is well past time for them to live up to their obligations."