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World Day Against Child Labour

Social protection essential to help eradicate child labour

The ILO calls on governments to step up their efforts to extend social protection in order to help keep children out of child labour.

Press release | 12 June 2014
GENEVA – Well designed social protection policies, sensitive to children’s needs, can make a real difference in the fight to eradicate child labour, said the International Labour Organization on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour.

According to the latest ILO global estimates, the total number of child labourers fell from 215 to 168 million between 2008 and 2012. In order to accelerate the decline in child labour the global community must address its root causes more effectively, the ILO said.

“There is no secret as to what needs to be done,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “Social protection, along with universal compulsory, formal, quality education at least up to the minimum age for work, decent work for adults and youth of working age, effective law and strong social dialogue together provide the right response to child labour.”

Jeopardized potential

World Day Against Child Labour comes a few days after the ILO released its World Social Protection Report 2014/15, which shows that many children do not receive the child and family benefits they need to realize their potential.

Facts and figures
  • 168 million children worldwide are in child labour; 85 million of them are in hazardous work.
  • Since 2000, child labour has declined by one third and progress is accelerating. Between 2008 and 2012, the global number fell from 215 to 168 million.
  • The number of children in hazardous work fell from 115 to 85 million.
Underinvestment in children jeopardizes their rights and their future, including their right to be protected from child labour, the report said.

Governments allocate an average 0.4 per cent of GDP to child and family benefits – ranging from 2.2 per cent in Western Europe to 0.2 per cent in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

The report builds on evidence presented in the 2013 ILO World Report on Child Labour: Economic vulnerability, social protection and the fight against child labour. According to this earlier report, cash and in-kind child and family benefits, especially when combined with access to education and health services, can be decidedly effective in addressing child labour.

These cash transfer programmes for children and families have been implemented widely in Latin America, and also exist in other parts of the world. Examples include Brazil’s Bolsa Família programme, the universal child benefit programme in Mongolia and the South African Child Support Grant. Building up social protection systems

Building up social protection systems

Social protection measures also play a significant role in ending child labour. Pensions, as well as unemployment, maternity, employment injury and disability benefits also help prevent situations where children have to work to supplement inadequate or insecure family incomes or enter child labour due to death, injury, sickness or other sudden income shocks. Yet, worldwide, only 12 per cent of unemployed workers receive unemployment benefits; only 28 per cent of women in employment are protected through maternity benefits, and only 52 per cent of those over retirement age receive a pension.

Health coverage that ensures access to health care does not only improve people’s health, it also protects households from the risk of falling into poverty due to health costs. Currently, about 40 per cent of total health expenditure is directly shouldered by the sick.

The ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202) reflects the global consensus on nationally-defined basic social protection guarantees as a basic right for all. It calls on the ILO’s 185 member States to guarantee that all people have, at the very least, essential health care and basic income security throughout their lives.

Activities to mark the day

Pope Francis/Vatican
Pope Francis referred to the World Day Against Child Labour during his general audience at The Vatican, saying that “tens of millions of children are forced to work in degrading conditions, and are victims of slavery and abuse, harassment and discrimination. I truly hope that the international community will extend children's access to social protection to eradicate this curse.”

“We all need to renew our commitment, especially families, to protect the dignity of every boy and girl and to offer them the opportunity to grow in a healthy environment. A peaceful childhood allows children to look at life and the future with confidence," added Pope Francis, who also raised the Red Card to Child Labour during the audience.

World Day activities in Geneva and in more than 45 countries will involve the ILO’s tripartite constituents, children and partners in the worldwide movement against child labour. They will include high level meetings, public rallies, and media, sports and cultural events, including numerous concerts dedicated to the Music against Child Labour Initiative.

In addition to the theme of Social Protection, many events will be centred on the ILO’s Red Card to Child Labour campaign. This phase of the campaign will run from the opening on 12 June of the football World Cup to the 2016 Olympics, starting with a social media “Thunderclap” and events in Brazil and New York.