New Child Labour Estimates - What do they mean?

New Child Labour Estimates - What do they mean?

Nearly 152 million children are still trapped in child labour, according to new global estimates on child labour released by the ILO and Alliance 8.7 this week. Almost half of them are performing hazardous work that places their health, safety or moral development at risk.

While these numbers are still too high, the encouraging news is that in the 16-year period starting in 2000, the number of children in child labour has reduced by 94 million, and those in hazardous work has dropped by almost 100 million.  We are clearly moving in the right direction but much more needs to be done.

A closer look at the new global estimates on child labour underlines the importance of special focus on:

  • the increase in child labour in sub-Saharan Africa,
  • how to address hazardous work among children 15-17 years,
  • and the power of public private partnerships.

Increase in child labour in Sub-Saharan Africa

The new estimates show that child labour continues to increase in Africa, in contrast to other regions where child labour is declining.  The report notes that ‘Africa ranks highest both in the percentage of children in child labour – one-fifth – and the absolute number of children in child labour – 72 million’ (p. 8). Reducing child labour in Africa is critical for ending child labour world-wide.

These statistics affirm the ECLT Foundation’s focus on Africa where the Foundation has the most of its child labour programmes. In Africa, smallholder agriculture is the main economic activity, which entails that most child labour takes place within the family unit.

Promoting decent work to combat hazardous child labour

The latest ILO statistics reveal that a substantial number of children in child labour - 38 million – are above the minimum working age. These children are old enough to work and have a legal right to do so, but are classified as child labourers because they are performing work which is potentially harmful to their health and well-being.

Recognizing that children above the minimum age have a legal right to safe work, the ECLT Foundation has piloted programmes that demonstrate simple and cost-effective solutions.  For example, in Malawi our pilot project showed great success by training smallholder farmers to identify and address health and safety risks on their farms.  This helps to ensure that workers between 15 and 17 have decent employment and improves conditions for everyone working on the farm.  Through our partners, more than 30,000 farmers in Malawi gained access to these trainings.

The power of public private partnerships

Child labour is a systemic problem that cannot be addressed by businesses, governments or communities alone.  It is imperative to form public-private partnerships and participate in movements like the Alliance 8.7, if the current pace of child labour reduction is to be maintained or accelerated.  Best practices must be spread, efforts maximised instead of doubled, collaboration used as we try to reach every child.

Looking forward, the upcoming IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour will be a crucial event to strengthen momentum under the SDGs to reach the accelerated target of ending child labour by 2025. The ILO, other UN agencies, governments, NGOs, foundations, the private sector and other stakeholder groups have an important role to play.

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