The number of children carrying out child labour worldwide has risen for the first time in 20 years. The UN Children‘s Rights Organisation UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) report this. It is estimated that at the beginning of 2020 it was 160 million children, which amounts to about one in ten children.
This report is published every four years and over the past four years the number of children in child labour has increased by 8.4 million. The increase is entirely due to growth in sub-Saharan countries in Africa. In that region 16.6 million more children ended up in child labour. More than half of the children engaged in child labour now live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Nearly half of the children also carry out unsafe work, for example underground or with dangerous machinery. Such work directly puts their health and development at risk.
The two organizations write that child labour leads to a vicious circle of poverty and child labour. “Children who do child labour risk physical and mental damage. Child labour jeopardizes the education of children and limits their rights and prospects for the future.”
More than half of children engaged in child labour are between 5 and 11 years old. There are more boys (97 million) than girls (63 million). Almost a third doesn’t go to school at all.
The amount of child labour has declined since the report first appeared in 2000, when 86 million more children are engaged in child labour than today. However, the decline was increasingly flattened, and now there is even an increase. The situation could worsen even further, as the latest figures are from the beginning of 2020, when the coronacrisis had not yet started.
End of child labour in 2025 unattainable
UNICEF and ILO expect an additional 9 million children to perform child labour by the end of 2022. That increase is caused by the coronacrisis. That is why further urgency is needed to take measures, the organisations say. That is what they call universal child benefit and investment in quality education, child protection systems, public services and agricultural development. Child labour is three times more common in rural areas than in the city.
The UN has set the objective of preventing child labour by 2025, but this seems impossible with these last figures.
June 12th, the day after tomorrow, is World Day Against Child Labour. On that day, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs seized a ‘flash speiling ‘by the agency Motivaction. According to the poll, two-thirds of Dutch people are worried about whether a product is made by child labour.
A large majority say they are willing to pay more for products made without child labour.
Participants in the poll find that consumers, businesses, governments and international organisations are responsible for eliminating child labour. According to the majority of respondents, the focus is on the authorities and companies where the phenomenon occurs.
The most effective instrument that the Dutch government could use is to create rules at European level that force companies to produce products in a fair way, a majority believes.