ILO, UNICEF record first rise in child labour in 2 decades

‘Bangladesh must keep fight against child labour’

13 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

The number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of Covid-19, said the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF in a new report on Saturday.

Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director for ILO Country Office for Bangladesh said Bangladesh must keep the fight against child labour at the top of the agenda so that progress made in recent years is not lost, reports UNB.

“We will continue to work closely with all our partners and focus on compulsory education, skill development, and social protection programmes – not only to address child labourers and vulnerable children, but also to provide decent working opportunities for parents and older siblings. It is high time to maximise the demographic dividend of the country and strengthen measures to produce a skilled, healthy, and productive labour force,” said Poutiainen.

Child labour compromises children’s education, restricting their rights and limiting their future opportunities, and leads to vicious inter-generational cycles of poverty and child labour.

Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh said with school closures in place since March 2020 and poverty levels rising amidst the pandemic, UNICEF is concerned that growing numbers of children are being pushed into child labour.

“Families are struggling to cope and using every available means to survive. We need to prioritize the needs of children and address the wider social issues that enable these harmful practices to continue.”

Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward - released ahead of World Day Against Child Labour on 12th June – warns that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years, reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016.

The report points to a significant rise in the number of children aged 5 to 11 years in child labour, who now account for just over half of the total global figure.

The number of children aged 5 to 17 years in hazardous work – defined as work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morals – has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016.

“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.