Global Child labour rises to 160 million

Helen Shok Jok. Abuja, 

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A new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says the number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million globally, with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The report titled, “Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, Trends and the Road Forward” was released on Thursday, on the sideline of the ongoing 109th Session of the International Labour Conference ILC in Geneva, Switzerland.

According to the report, this is the first increase in two decades and warned that nine million additional children were at risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the world prepares to commemorate this year’s World Day Against Child Labour in June 12, ILO and UNICEF described the new estimate as a wakeup call.

The world cannot stand by while a new generation of children is put at risk, Director General of the ILO, Mr Guy Ryder said

“This is a time for renewed commitment and energy, to turn the corner and break the cycle of poverty and child labour. Inclusive social protection allows families to keep their children in school even in the face of economic hardship”, Ryder explained.

While urging governments and international development banks to prioritise investments in programmes that can get children out of the workforce and back into school, Mr Ryder stressed that increased investment in rural development and decent work in agriculture was essential.

“We are at a pivotal moment and much depends on how we respond”, he said.

To reverse the upward trend in child labour, the ILO and UNICEF called for adequate social protection for all, including universal child benefits.

The Executive Director of UNICEF Henrietta Fore, said the world was not doing well in the fight against child labour.

She lamented that the world was loosing ground in the fight against child labour adding that last year had not made that fight any easier.

“Now, well into a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions, and shrinking national budgets, families are forced to make heart-breaking choices.

“We urge governments and international development banks to prioritise investments in programmes that can get children out of the workforce and back into school”, she said.

The new report is the first-ever joint ILO-UNICEF document on child labour estimates and forms part of a broader inter-agency effort to measure and monitor progress towards target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Based on the outcome of the new report, the ILO and UNICEF also called for increased spending on free and good-quality schooling and getting all children back into school including children who were out of school before the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time since the birth of the ILO over a century ago, the Organisation is having its global annual meeting, the ILC virtually due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shok Jok/Bilkisu Pai

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