Believes its worst forms can be eliminated in 10 years
GENEVA, ILO, 4 May 2006 -- Child labour, especially in its worst forms, is
in decline for the first time across the globe, the International Labour
Organization (ILO) said today, in a new, cautiously optimistic report
entitled "The end of child labour: Within reach".
The ILO report also says that if the current pace of the decline were to
be maintained and the global momentum to stop child labour continued, it
believes child labour could feasibly be eliminated, in most of its worst
forms, in 10 years.
"The end of child labour is within our reach", says Juan Somavia,
Director-General of the ILO. "Though the fight against child labour
remains a daunting challenge, we are on the right track. We can end its
worst forms in a decade, while not losing sight of the ultimate goal of
ending all child labour."
The new report says the actual number of child labourers worldwide fell by
11 per cent between 2000 and 2004, from 246 million to 218 million.
What's more, the number of children and youth aged 5-17 trapped in
hazardous work decreased by 26 per cent, to reach 126 million in 2004 as
opposed to 171 million in the previous estimate. Among younger child
labourers aged 5-14, this drop was even more pronounced at 33 per cent,
says the report.
Four years ago, the ILO issued the most comprehensive report to date on
global child labour. Applying the same statistical methodology used in
that report, the ILO finds a significant decline in child labour since
The report attributed the reduction in child labour to increased political
will and awareness and concrete action, particularly in the field of
poverty reduction and mass education that has led to a "worldwide movement
against child labour". Through its International Programme on the
Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), the ILO assists in building national
capacity to deal with child labour and providing policy advice. In
addition, through direct action, the Programme over the past decade has
reached some 5 million children. These initiatives have played a
significant catalytic role, both in mobilizing action and demonstrating
how child labour can be eliminated.
Over the last five years, IPEC has helped several countries put in place
appropriate time-bound measures to eliminate the worst forms of child
labour. The report calls on all member States that haven't done so yet to
adopt time-bound plans by 2008. According to the report, more than 30
member States of the ILO have already set time-bound targets with a
similar or even earlier target date than 2016 to abolish the worst forms
of child labour.
Despite considerable progress in the fight against child labour, the
report also highlights important challenges, particularly in agriculture,
where seven out of ten child labourers work. Other challenges include
addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS on child labour, and building stronger
links between child labour and youth employment concerns.
The report calls for greater national efforts, involving organizations
representing employers and workers, as well as governments - the partners
that make up the tripartite ILO. It also calls for the strengthening of
the worldwide movement to make child labour history. Meeting the UN
Millennium Development Goals by 2015 would further help to eradicate child
labour, the report says.
According to the report, Latin America and the Caribbean have seen the
most rapid decline in child labour over the four-year period. The number
of children at work in the region has fallen by two-thirds during that
time, with just 5 per cent of children now engaged in work.
The report presents Brazil as an example to illustrate how countries can
move forward in tackling child labour. Activity rates among the 5-9 age
group fell by 61 per cent from 1992 to 2004, and among the larger 10-17
age group by 36 per cent.
Another country with significant decline in child labour is Mexico. As
half of the children in Latin America live in either Mexico or Brazil,
these reductions are very important and testify to the fact that the
overall decline is a real trend.
Asia and the Pacific also registered a significant decline in the number
of economically active children, according to the report. However, as the
child population also declined, the percentage of working children was
less reduced. The ILO estimates that the region still has the largest
number of child workers in the 5-14 age group - some 122 million.
The report says Asia is a prime example of how political commitment to
reducing poverty and expanding education has had an important bearing on
child labour elimination. However, around the world, progress is uneven.
With 26 per cent of the child population, or almost 50 million working
children, the sub-Saharan African region has the highest proportion of
children engaged in economic activities of any region in the world.
According to the Global Report, the convergence of high population growth,
grinding poverty and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS has hindered progress in the
fight against child labour.
However, there are signs of progress. For example, primary school
enrollments in the region increased by 38 per cent between 1990 and 2000.
The report also refers to the unprecedented international movement to put
the plight of the continent front and centre of the world's attention that
opens a window of opportunity for Africa's fight against child labour.
"In this 21st century, no child should be brutalized by exploitation or be
placed in hazardous work", said Mr. Somavia. "No child should be denied
access to education. No child should have to slave for his or her
survival. Let's keep up the momentum. Let's resolve to keep investing in
the struggle for the right of all children to their childhood.
The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) is
the world's largest programme dedicated to the eradication of child labour
and the biggest single operational programme of the ILO. Since its
establishment in 1992, IPEC has spent US$350 million, with annual
expenditure now running at US$50-60 million. Beyond the ILO's tripartite
structure of governments and employers' and workers' organizations, IPEC
works with others, including: private businesses, community-based
organizations, NGOs, the media, parliamentarians, the judiciary,
universities, religious groups and, of course, children and their
families. National and community action is crucial for the success of the
IPEC programme. Through local authorities and municipalities, IPEC can
reach children in the informal economy and small and medium-sized
businesses that provide the bulk of employment, and promote integrated
approaches to get children out of work and into school.
PDF version of "The end of child labour: Within reach"