Goal to Eliminate Child Labor Running out of Steam

Published on
by
Voice of America

Goal to Eliminate Child Labor Running out of Steam

by
Lisa Schlein

Kapil Kumar, 6, polishes shoes at a makeshift shop on a pavement, on the World Day Against Child Labor in Gauhati, India, 12 Jun, 2010. (Photo: AP)

GENEVA - The International Labor Organization says progress toward eliminating
the worst forms of child labor is slowing down.  To mark the World Day
Against Child Labor, the ILO is urging countries to do more to end this
abhorrent practice. 

This year's World Day Against Child Labor
coincides with the World Cup in South Africa. But, for millions of
children the beautiful game is just a distant dream.

Patrick
Quinn is Senior Technical Specialist in ILO's International Program on
the Elimination of Child Labor.  He says while billions of people are
caught up in the excitement of the World Cup, some 215 million children
are laboring for survival.

"The grim reality for many children
is they do not have the opportunity to play, to learn," he said. "They
are trapped in child labor.  We want to focus attention on this issue."
 

Of the 215 million child laborers, the ILO estimates more than
half, or 115 million, are trapped in the worst forms of child labor. 
This includes all forms of slavery, such as debt bondage, using
children in armed conflict, or in the sex industry.  

Many children also are forced into hazardous work, including domestic service, agriculture, and mining.  

The
ILO says the largest number of children work in South Asia, because of
the sheer size of the population.  But, in terms of percentage,
sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of child laborers.

Patrick
Quinn, of the ILO's International Program on the Elimination of Child
Labor, says children as young as six or seven years of age are forced
to work long days in dismal conditions, which are damaging to their
health.

"We know from our statistics that the overwhelming
majority of children are actually, they are not working for a salary,"
he said. "They are very often in home-based industries."

"They
are working to support families who are very often trapped in poverty. 
Large percentages of these children, about 50 percent, are working in
agriculture.  We have got a good picture and another 20 percent of
children are working in the informal sector, working on the streets,
working in domestic service," he added.

When times get tough,
Quinn says parents pull their children out of school because they
cannot afford the fees.  And, he says, if there is a choice to be made,
it usually is the boy and not the girl who gets to go to school.

Quinn
says education, social protection and employment for adults are key to
tackling child labor.  He says the ILO believes education is crucial
for getting people out of the poverty trap and social protection will
help poor families withstand economic shocks.  

He says when adults are employed, it is less likely they will need the income they get from their child's labor.

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