Child labour deprives children of their right to go to school, exposes them to violence, and reinforces intergenerational cycles of poverty. Yet, this serious violation of human rights is not inevitable. Child labour is preventable through inte- grated approaches that simultaneously address poverty and inequity, improve access to and quality of education and mobilize public support for respecting childrenâ€™s rights.
This is a quote from the 2014 UNICEF report “Child Labour and UNICEF in Action: Children at the Centre (PDF)“.
The report then states that worldwide, about 168 million children aged 5 to 17 are engaged in child labour, accounting for almost 11 per cent of all children. According to statistical data this is a decline of about one third since since 2000.
At the Hague Conference in 2010 a roadmap to eliminate the worst kinds of child labour by 2016 was outlined, a very ambitious goal.
What is child labour?
Child labour is work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
It refers to work undertaken by children below the appropriate legal minimum working age, based on the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), as well as the worst forms of child labour defined by the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999, (No. 182).
In october 2013 there was a new conference, III Global Conference on Child Labour in Brasilia, Brazil where the progress towards the meeting the 2016 goal was on the agenda.
Ahead of the conference the ILO published a report Marking progress against child labour.
Disappointingly the report states very clearly that the 2016 goal is not going to be met any time soon (figure 2), but a slow but steady progress towards meeting the goal is expected, so that by 2020 the number of children working within the worst forms of child labour is reduced to 50 million.
One positive thing is that the global financial crisis didn’t seem to slow down progress, this was something that was feared.
But the continued warnings issued by the ILO over the years was not taken seriously enough, and it looks like some of the initiatives outlined in the 2010 document from The Hague, like the â€œGlobal Leaders against Child Labour Initiativeâ€, never materialised.
If we are serious about ending the scourge of child labour in the foreseeable future, we need a substantial stepping-up of efforts at all levels. There are 168 million good reasons to do so.â€
Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
The end document from the III Global Conference on Child Labour: Brasilia Declaration on child labour is not very specific in stating how to speed up progress, and the concluding speech by Guy Ryder only re-iterates the 2016 goal:
Friends, we are coming to the end of the III Global Conference and we are thinking already about the IV Global Conference in 2017, and letâ€™s make it very clear to ourselves that our work and preparation to the next conference will not start in three or four years, it starts now, it starts tomorrow. The big question I think is: what will the numbers of child labourers be when we gather for the next Global Conference? That 168 million is engrained in our minds today. Letâ€™s go home thinking what numbers we are going to aim at for 2017, and Kailash has just reminded us, for the worst forms of child labour, the number should already be a big round zero.
How can you get involved?
The organisation Stop Child Labour has some suggestions on their website.
You can also support a danish campaign to end child labour “in the cell phone” (in danish)
And, of course, support ILO and UNICEF in setting ambitious goals, despite the failure of the 2016 goal, so that future goals can be met.
Let’s get serious!