Urgent action needed to eradicate child labour by 2016, says senior UN official

8 October 2013

A United Nations senior official today warned that if countries do not step up their efforts, they would fall short of reaching the agreed target of eradicating child labour 2016.

“Let us be clear. We will not meet the 2016 target and that is a collective policy failure. We have to do better,” the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, said at the opening ceremony of the Third Global Conference on Child Labour in Brasilia.

The ILO’s latest global estimates on child labour, released in the run-up to the conference, show that since 2010, the number of child labourers has fallen by one-third to 168 million.

Yet in spite of that drop, Mr. Ryder warned that globally, the number of child labourers is still very large - only 27 million fewer than the entire population of Brazil.

“These children constitute 168 million reasons for our presence here today,” he said, adding that progress is not happening fast enough.

Mr. Ryder stressed that child labour is not only a problem of poor or developing economies but that it affects all countries, and he urged participants to direct their efforts towards policies and actions that have been successful.

“We are seeing child labour concerns mainstreamed into public policy in multiple, relevant fields. We see greater clarity about the need for better school-to-work transition and skills-matching. We see a new global consensus on the need to ensure social protection floors for all people,” he said.

Child labour is predominant in agriculture, and in other sectors of the informal economy, and Mr. Ryder underlined the role of enterprises and trade unions in discussing how to clean up their value chains, protect and respect human rights at work and remedy violations.

Mr. Ryder also warned that there is a danger that as the “long march” against child labour appears to be entering its final phase, the international community could move its attention away from the struggle to end the scourge.

“That would be tragic and must not happen. The call from Brasilia must be for a renewed, collective effort.”

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Fight against child labour moving in right direction, but not quickly enough – UN report

The number of child labourers worldwide has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million, the United Nations reported today, while adding that this is still not enough to achieve the goal of eliminating the worst forms of the practice by 2016.