World Day Against Child Labour 2008 ─ ILO says education is the “right response” to child labour

Citing data indicating that many of the estimated 75 million children lacking primary schooling start working at an early age, the International Labour Office (ILO) said today that education was critical to breaking the cycle of child labour and poverty as well as eradicating child labour in its worst forms by 2016.

Press release | 11 June 2008

GENEVA (ILO News) ─ Citing data indicating that many of the estimated 75 million children lacking primary schooling start working at an early age, the International Labour Office (ILO) said today that education was critical to breaking the cycle of child labour and poverty as well as eradicating child labour in its worst forms by 2016.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said “We must work for every child’s right to education so no child has to work for survival. The goal is quality education for children and decent work for adults”.

Hundreds of events will be organized in some 60 countries around the world to mark the World Day which each year focuses attention on child labour worldwide.

The ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) published a new technical report (Note 1) on child labour and education based on surveys of child labour in 34 countries from all regions of the world. At the same time, as part of a new year-long campaign on “Gender equality at the heart of decent work”, the ILO Bureau for Gender Equality also highlighted combating child labour through education with the slogan “Formula for progress: Educate both girls and boys!”.

The report cites UNESCO (Note 2) statistics showing that some 75 million children of primary school age were out of school in 2006, a reduction from 103 million in 1999. The report also acknowledges that the number of children involved in economic activities has been falling. In 2004 it was estimated there were some 20 million fewer economically active children aged 5-14 than there had been four years earlier. However there remained 191 million children aged 5-14 engaged in some kind of economic activity. Of this number 165 million were involved in child labour.

By examining how child labour affects main schooling indicators, the new ILO findings also strengthen the case for tackling child labour as a means of achieving education targets set in the UN Millennium Development Goals. The report notes that:

  • Child labour leads to reduced primary school enrolment and negatively affects literacy rates among youth.
  • There is strong evidence that when children combine school and work, as the number of hours in work increases, school attendance falls.
  • High levels of child labour are associated with lower performance on an Education Development Index, which measures a country’s performance on universal primary education, adult literacy, quality of education and gender parity.
  • There is a significant correlation between the levels of children’s economic activity and primary school repetition rates. Grade repetition often leads to children dropping out of school.
  • Rural working children and girls tend to be among the most disadvantaged. Girls often carry a double burden of work inside and outside the home, putting their schooling at risk.
  • IPEC also said that at the level of secondary school, average attendance is just 46 per cent for boys and 43 per cent for girls, and in sub-Saharan Africa only one child in five attends secondary school.

    “On this World Day Against Child Labour the focus is on: Education - the right response to child labour”, Mr. Somavia said. “For too many children, particularly children of poor families across the world, the right to education remains an abstract concept, far from the reality of daily life. More than 70 million primary school aged children are not enrolled in school. Many of these and other out of school children start working at an early age, often well below the minimum age of employment. And when a family has to make a choice between sending either a boy or girl to school, it is often the girl who loses out.”

    Mr. Somavia called for an “educational dimension” in the struggle against child labour, saying “let us pledge to work together for education for all children at least to the minimum age of employment, education policies that reach out to child labourers and other excluded groups, properly resourced quality education and skills training and education for all children, and decent work for adults. I urge you to lend your voice and action to the worldwide movement against child labour”.

    As part of its efforts to strengthen action to tackle child labour by boosting access to education, the ILO is coordinating the work of an inter-agency partnership, the Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education for All, which brings together UN agencies, teachers, and civil society representatives, to strengthen measures to help child labourers. In addition, 12 UN agencies through the UN Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee on Human Rights Education (UNIACC) have issued a joint Statement for World Day which can be found at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/education.

    The ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) has activities in almost 90 countries worldwide. It works at the policy level, supporting development of legislative and policy frameworks to tackle child labour, as well as through programmes aimed at preventing and withdrawing children from child labour, and has developed a Global Action Plan to eliminate its worst forms – including hazardous work, commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking and all forms of slavery – by 2016.

    For more information on the campaign, see: /childlabour08. Media can contact the ILO Department of Communication at +4122/799-7912. communication@ilo.org


    Note 1 – Blanco Allais, F., Hagemann, F. Child labour and education: Evidence from SIMPOC surveys / IPEC - Geneva: ILO, 2008 (/ipecinfo/product/viewProduct.do?productId=8390)

    Note 2 – UNESCO Institute of Statistics, see http://www.uis.unesco.org/ev.php?ID=7194_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC