Drive against child workers slackening: UN labour agency

8th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A global drive against child labour has slackened in recent years, with some 215 million children and a growing number of boys locked in the practice, the UN labour agency warned Saturday.

The number represented a decline of just three percent from 222 million child workers in 2004 who were more than five years old, said an ILO report released ahead of the Global Child Labour conference in The Hague on Monday.

Of the 2008 global total, the latest data available, more than half -- 113.6 million children --- were based in the Asia-Pacific region despite recent progress there, the International Labour Organisation said.

And while progress worldwide against the practice was most marked among girls, the ILO said it was alarmed about the growing plight of 15 to 17 year old youngsters of both sexes.

The number of working older teenagers grew by 20 percent in 2004-2008 to 62 million, while the number of boys in child labour rose by seven percent to 127.7 million.

"The economic downturn cannot become an excuse for diminished ambition and inaction," said ILO Director General Juan Somavia, as the report warned of a "slowing down of the global pace of reduction."

"Progress is uneven, neither fast enough nor comprehensive enough to reach the goals that we have set."

"The situation calls for a re-energized campaign against child labour. We must scale up action and move into a higher gear," he added.

In 2000, the UN labour agency accounted for some 245.5 million children locked in labour.

The agency also highlighted the plight of an estimated 115 million children who are engaged in the most hazardous work that directly endangers their health and safety.

Girls were the primary beneficiaries of slender progress against child labour, with a decline of 15 percent between 2004 and 2008, and of 24 percent for those engaged in the most hazardous work.

In Africa, child labour is growing and now affects one quarter of over fives and keeps many of them away from school, according to the ILO report "Accelerating action against Child Labour".

In some countries such as Mali, "more than half of the children are working," Frank Hagemann, an ILO specialist on child labour, told journalists.

Agriculture remains the biggest employer of children, accounting for 60 percent of the total, followed by services (25.6 percent).

Nonetheless, 80 percent of children who work are not paid, the ILO said.

© 2010 AFP

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