Child labour increases to 160 million for the first time in 20 years

By Elkanah Nyauma


The latest news reports from the International Labour Organisation in Geneva show that the number of children involved in child labour has risen to 160 million globally.

This indicates an increase of 8.4 million children, from 152 million in 2016 – with many children in danger due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the ILO and UNICEF.

“The new estimates are a wake-up call. We cannot stand by while a new generation of children is put at risk,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

“Inclusive social protection allows families to keep their children in school even in the face of economic hardship. Increased investment in rural development and decent work in agriculture is essential. We are at a pivotal moment and much depends on how we respond. This is a time for renewed commitment and energy, to turn the corner and break the cycle of poverty and child labour”, he added.

child labour
The Brussels Times

The ILO also reports that severe poverty, growth in population, repetitive crises, and insufficient social protection initiatives have caused an additional over 16 million children in child exploitation in the past four years in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The International Labour Organisation findings also indicate that even in the Latin America, Asia and the Pacific, and the Caribbean, where there has been some progress since 2016, the Coronavirus is jeopardizing that progress.

Child labour as per international standards is hazardous work that requires a lot of hours and done by children who are too young. Children are made to work because their life depends on it.

Children involved in work at an early age are always put at risk. Their education is compromised as well as their physical, mental, and social development. Their spiritual and moral development is also prone to harm. 

Picture | Devdiscourse

According to an online research, almost half of child labour happens in Africa (72 million children), followed by Asia and the Pacific (62 million). 70% of children in child exploitation work in agriculture, mainly in subsistence and commercial farming and herding livestock.

In Kenya for example, children are working in towns as house helps in order to earn some money and survive. Many children also do not attend school because they are believed to be a source of cheap labour. 

Ending child labour requires immediate action, accelerated motivation, and collaborative partnerships at all levels – now. Let’s make a difference. Let’s make sure that our post-pandemic world is free from child labour. ~ United Nations.

Opinion: What world governments should do to stop child labour

Governments should work closely with Non-governmental Organisations, civil society groups, individuals and other organisations to fight against child labour and educate people in communities about the negative implications of child labour. 

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