To mark this year's World Day Against Child Labor on June 12, the International Labor Organization and other U.N. agencies are calling for an end to the worst forms of child labor by 2016. The International Labor Organization says, worldwide, 126 million children are forced to do particularly hazardous forms of work. Lisa Schlein has more for VOA from Geneva.
The International Labor Organization reports more than half of all children who work are engaged in what it calls the worst forms of child labor, work that jeopardizes their lives, health and general well being.
The group says 132 million girls and boys between the ages of five and 14 work in agriculture and are exposed to the same hazards as adults. They handle and apply toxic pesticides, use dangerous cutting tools and operate powerful farm machinery.
A spokeswoman for the U.N. Children's Fund, Veronique Taveau, says children work under difficult conditions in many parts of the world, in cottonseed fields in India or tea plantations in India and Sri Lanka. She says cocoa and coffee plantations in Africa rely on work done by millions of children.
"If you take the example of coffee in Tanzania, the majority is aged between 10 and 13 years old," he said. "And, girls constitute the majority. Almost 60 percent, which is a large majority of children that work in the field and the children are working 10 hours a day, which is 10 hours a day is more than a full day. It means that those children are not going to school. They have no leisure. They are just exploited. They are slaves."
At the same time, Taveau says not all work children do in agriculture is bad for them. She says tasks appropriate to a child's age, those that do not interfere with a child's schooling and leisure time, can be a normal part of growing up in a rural environment.
The International Labor Organization agrees. But, it warns in many cases child labor limits children's access to proper education, and a lack of education greatly reduces their hopes for a better future.