Child Labour Alarming For the Last Two Decades

Child Labour Alarming For the Last Two Decades

For the first time in two decades, child labour has increased many folds with the present figures standing at 160 million worldwide, showing an increase of 8.4 million over four years. The alarming figures are showcased in the report – Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, Trends and The Road Forward – by the International Labour Organization and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The report takes stock of where the world stands in the global effort to end child labour. Published in the United Nations International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, the report shows the scale and key characteristics of children’s labour today, and changes over time.


As per the estimates, 63 million girls and 97 million boys are in labour the world over at the beginning of 2020. This means that one in ten children are working The report states that 79 million children, almost half of all those in child labour are in hazardous work that directly endangers Their health, safely and moral development


In the last four years, the report states that the percentage of children in labour remained unchanged.  Meanwhile, the absolute number of children in labour increased by over eight million


These regions showed a downward trend in child labour over the last four years in percentage and absolute terms. Similar progress in sub-Saharan Africa has proven elusive, the report said. However, the regions showed a raise in both the number and percentage of children in labour since 2012. There are now more children in labour in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world combined.

CHILDREN AGED 12 to 14 and 15 to 17

Child labour in both the age groups declined in percentage and absolute terms, continuing a consistent downward trend seen in previous estimates, the report said. The labour rose among young children aged 5 to 11. However, after the 2016 global estimates signalled slowing progress for this age group. There were 16.8 million more children aged 5 to 11 in labour in 2020 than in 2016


In the report, the authors say a further 8.9 million children will be in child labour by the end of 2022 because of rising poverty driven by the Covid 19 pandemic “The actual impact will depend on policy responses. Two additional scenarios demonstrate the huge influence of social protection coverage on child labour.  Where social protection coverage is allowed to slip, a significant further increase in child labour could occur by the end of 2022. A rise in social protection coverage could more than more than offset the impact of COVID-19 on child labour, returning us to progress on the issue,” the report said.


Among all boys, 11.2 per cent are in child labour. This is only 7.8 per cent for girls. In absolute numbers, boys in child labour outnumber girls by 34 million. When the definition of child labour expands to include household chores for 21 hours or more each week, the gender gap in prevalence among boys and girls aged 5 to 14 is reduced by almost half, the reports notes.


The report notes that 122.7 million rural children are in labour when compared to 373 million urban children. The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (13 9 per cent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (4.7 per cent) Agriculture forms the highest child labour. Seventy per cent of all children in child labour are in the agriculture sector, according to the report. Over three quarters of all children aged 5 to 11 in child labour work in agriculture sector.


Seventy-two per cent of all child labour and 83 per cent of labour among children aged 5 to 11 occurs within families, the report noted. They primarily work on family farms or in family microenterprises. More than one in four children aged 5 to 11 and nearly half of children aged 12 to 14 in family-based labour at work are likely to harm their health, safety or morals.


With child labour, a large number of children are out of school. More than a quarter of children aged 5 to 11 and over a third of children aged 12 to 14 who are in labour are out of school. There are lots of children who struggle to balance the demands of school and labour at the same time

  • The ILO and UNICEF in the report calls for adequate social protection, including universal child benefits, increased spending on quality education and getting all children back into school including those forced out before COVID-19 and investment in child protection systems, rural public services and livelihoods.
  • Extending social protection for children and their families to mitigate the poverty and economic uncertainty that underpin labour of children.
  • Ensuring free and good-quality schooling at least up to the minimum age for entering employment to provide a viable alternative to children’s labour and afford children a chance at a better future Guaranteeing that every child’s birth is registered so that they have a legal identity and con enjoy their rights from birth.
  • Promoting decent work that delivers a fair income for young people (of legal working age) and adults with a particular emphasis on workers in the informal economy, in order for families to escape poverty-driven labour.
  • Promoting adequate rural livelihoods and resilience, including through supporting economic diversification, investing in basic services restructure extending social protection and devising agricultural extension policies for crop diversification. Family farms and enterprises that depend mostly on unpaid labour of their children need greater support to improve their livelihoods and end that dependence.
  • Ensuring that necessary laws and regulations are in place to protect children, backed by enforcement machinery and child protection systems, and the services required to apply them.
  • Addressing gender norms and discrimination that increase labour risks, particularly for girls, related to domestic work and unpaid household chores


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