World Day Against Child Labour 2021

The ILO makes an urgent appeal to protect Myanmar’s children as child labour rises to 160 million worldwide

Press release | 11 June 2021
Yangon (ILO News) - The number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new global report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF. This represents the first time child labour has increased in 20 years.

“The new estimates are a wake-up call. We cannot stand by while a new generation of children is put at risk,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “We are at a pivotal moment and much depends on how we respond. This is a time for renewed commitment and energy, to turn the corner and break the cycle of poverty and child labour.”

In Myanmar, the ILO and its partners are echoing this global message with urgency on 12 June – the World Day Against Child Labour. “Although no new data has been released for Myanmar, we have strong indications that the global pandemic has greatly aggravated poverty in the country, and as a result child labour is on the rise,” said Donglin Li, the ILO’s Liaison Officer in Myanmar. “The country’s current political situation also puts vulnerable children at high risk and we fear a domino effect into future generations if necessary actions are not taken to protect children.”

In 2016 – even before the current health and political crises – the number of under-17-year-olds trapped in child labour was estimated to be 1.1 million in Myanmar, representing one in every 11 children in the country. Around half of these children perform hazardous work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morals.

In recent years, there have been positive developments towards addressing child labour in Myanmar. The ratification of ILO Convention 138 to establish a minimum working age in June 2020, the development of a National Action Plan to end child labour and the ILO’s own on-the-ground pilot projects all indicate that it is possible to take practical steps to protect children.

“After more than a year of school closures and so much uncertainty for Myanmar’s youngest members of society, it is essential that previous commitments are upheld and everyone now takes bold action to prioritize children’s learning, wellbeing and safety,” Li said. “Doing so is not only the moral thing to do, but also the smart thing to do, since evidence shows that keeping children in education has long-term health and economic benefits for children themselves, as well for their families, communities and the country.”

2021 is a special year for child labour eradication, as the UN has declared it the Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. The ILO and its partners are running an advocacy campaign, spurring global action towards the Sustainable Development Goal target 8.7 to end child labour by 2030.

Despite disruptions, ILO Myanmar is also continuing its work to support at-risk children and their families, in close collaboration with civil society, employer and worker organizations, as well as teachers and community leaders.

“We are grateful for our partners’ ongoing commitment to supporting children and inspired by the advocacy of young people themselves” Li said. “As the world marks the World Day Against Child Labour, we call upon everyone in the country to join us in protecting Myanmar’s children – now more than ever.”