Child labour has many faces, has devastated many lives. The last decade has seen their numbers decline with 30 million fewer working children globally. But there are still an estimated 215 million girls and boys who start their days at work in a mine or a field rather than a classroom.
Eugenia, Child Labourer:
“We go to the tobacco field, then we go to bed, and then follows the same – we wake up at 4am in the morning”
Today, according to the International Labour Organization, more than half of all child labourers are in the most hazardous forms of work. Some 60% are in agriculture, domestic work or street vending. At even greater risk are children in commercial sexual exploitation, slavery and forced labour, including those forced to serve as child soldiers.
In 2006, the goal to eliminate these worst forms of child labour seemed within reach. However in the last 4 years, child labour numbers have decreased by only 7 million, only 3 per cent.
Constance Thomas, Director of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) at the ILO:
“We are still making progress but that progress is too slow. We still have 215 million children working in child labour; 115 million of those are in the worst forms of child labour. That’s far too many and the progress is far too slow for us to make the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016.”
Some countries, though hit by economic crisis, kept child labour at bay through programs that link social protection, education, health and income. In Brazil, the Bolsa Familia program gives cash transfers to 12 million families who keep their children in school.
In India, the world’s largest school lunch program means poor rural children have a meal instead of work to look forward to each day.
Former Child Labourer:
“I tell kids who are working that we used to work, too, and waste our time. Now we come to school every day. Coming to school made us more intelligent.”
Child labour has many faces….faces waiting to take their turn at a better future.