The fight against child labour across the world has stalled.
This is the stark conclusion to be drawn from a new report released by the International Labour Organisation on Tuesday (19 September) – showing how 152 million children across the globe are forced to work in exploitative conditions.
That’s one in ten of all children on the planet. Nearly 73 million minors are carrying out hazardous work, which seriously jeopardises their health, safety and moral development.
Two years ago, world leaders pledged to completely eradicate child labour by 2025 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. But these new statistics show much more needs to be done if child labour is to be truly wiped out in the next 13 years.
The report also sounds the alarm on how the incremental gains made in the fight against child labour since the year 2000 could be lost.
Ninety-four million less children are subjected to child labour across the world now than at the start of the millennium. But over four million children are trapped in slavery across the globe – including a million being subjected to sexual exploitation.
Child slavery – exacerbating the perilous conditions children work in with the added trauma of being threatened, coerced and tricked into working – is something governments and the international community must act on immediately.
The report’s findings also reveal how children already burdened with living in armed conflicts or surviving the aftermath of natural disasters often have no choice but to carry out exploitative work to provide for themselves and their families. The Syrian civil war has destroyed the livelihoods of over 12 million people – causing a huge spike in child labour in neighbouring countries as children are pushed into work to make up for the shortfall.
Efforts to combat child labour across the planet need to be re-energised. Children in communities affected by poverty and discrimination must not have to work in conditions detrimental to their health and well being, and their parents, guardians or other caregivers must be encouraged to keep them in education instead.
The international community has already committed to stopping children being forced to work in jobs detrimental to their well being. It’s time they put their money where their mouth is and followed these words up with concrete actions to consign child labour to history’s dustbin for good.