A year of partnership and action on child labour has begun

On 21 January 2021 the International Labour Organization (ILO) joined activists and UN, regional and national partners from around the globe to launch the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

Article | 29 January 2020
Photo: Girl smiles in Dagon Seikkan, Myanmar, ILO/ PhotoDoc - Mayco Naing
The campaign – unanimously backed by UN member states – will spur legislative and practical action to eradicate child labour worldwide, in line with Sustainable Development Goal target 8.7.

Child labour has decreased by 38 per cent in the last decade, yet 152 million children are still affected – more than a million of them in Myanmar.

The COVID-19 pandemic has considerably worsened the situation, with more children denied education and vulnerable to exploitative or hazardous forms of work.

“Even before the pandemic, we were dealing with rising poverty and low wages, eroding social protections, a lack of quality education and normalization of children’s work,” said UNICEF Executive Director of Henrietta Fore at the online global launch event.

“If we don’t step up our game, the risk is real that we go backwards instead of going forward as we must,” cautioned Guy Ryder, Director-General of the ILO.

However, Fore and Ryder also stressed that joint and decisive action can reverse this trend.

Countries, organizations and individuals alike are being called upon to pledge their support to eradicating child labour.

The first public commitments have already been shared. For example, at the launch event, pledges were made by the Director-Generals of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Organization on Migration, as well as by the EU Commissioner on Jobs and Social Rights, and senior representatives of the International Organization of Employers, the International Trade Union Confederation, Alliance 8.7, the UN Global Compact and countries including South Africa, Argentina and Tunisia.

The Myanmar International Year campaign will kick off with its own launch in February. The virtual event will showcase 2021 commitments from government, employer, worker and civil society organizations, as well as international partners active in the fight against child labour in the country.

“Children are not willing to listen to the rhetoric of good intent... they need action and they need results,” said Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, summing up campaign organizers’ ambitions for the year ahead.