GENEVA - The International Labor Organization is calling for the elimination of child labor, which victimizes tens of millions of children in all regions of the world. The call came from Geneva, where special events marking the World Day Against Child Labor were held Wednesday.
Children as young as five are among the 152 million victims of child labor. Many of them work long hours, for little or no pay, under abusive, slave-like conditions. The International Labor Organization reports nearly half of them work in hazardous child labor, which exposes them to unhealthy and dangerous conditions.
It says the majority work in agriculture. Other areas of hazardous work include mining, construction, fishing and domestic service. Beate Andrees, Chief of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch, told VOA children trapped in the worst forms of child labor, such as debt bondage and prostitution, suffer irreparable physical and psychological harm.
“According to the ILO’s standards, the worst forms include child labor that is hazardous or damaging for the child’s development, including their moral well-being. It also includes forced child labor or child trafficking as well as the recruitment of children for armed conflict,” she said.
Andrees said some remarkable progress has been made in reducing child labor in Asia and Latin America, but reductions in Africa are declining. She said Africa now has the highest prevalence of child labor in the world.
“This is not necessarily linked to a lack of action, but it is also linked to demographic developments, migration, climate change and underlying economic root causes, which play out differently in the different regions,” Andrees said.
Despite this worrying trend, Andrees said she was heartened to see the African Union taking decisive measures to tackle this problem. She noted the AU is developing a ten-year action plan to accelerate the elimination of child labor in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The SDG’s call for the elimination of child labor by 2025. However, if the current pace of reduction in child labor is maintained, Andrees warns this mark will be missed by a wide margin.