2021: International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour

2021 is known as International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor (IYCL). So now it's time to take action - Inspire - Scale-Up. The issue of child labour has seen real progress over the past 20 years. There are a few hundred million children in child labour now, which is a stunning number.

2021: International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour by Mahima Nigudkar

The current development agenda and the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a specific and distinct goal to end all forms of child labour by 2025, according to the SDG target 8.7. In addition, Alliance 8.7 is at the forefront of achieving this goal, bringing all stakeholders together and encouraging countries to commit to accelerating efforts to address child labour through their ‘Pathfinder Country’ approach, which has led to the commitment of twenty-two countries so far. “There is not any place for child labour within the community.”

Why does child labour still exist?

The causes of child labour are complex and have become a global problem (e.g., the rise in sex tourism and child trafficking at national borders).

There are two distinct interpretations of why child abuse still exists despite public concern. On the other hand, there are problems associated with family and social pressures: poverty, inadequacy or illiteracy, practices, social and cultural values. On the other hand, we see the side of exploitation of the employer/family business: low cost, easy to manage and cheat, the issue of "little fingers", suspected irreplaceable skills of child workers etc.

70% of children are exploited by child labour in agriculture

In the last 20 years, nearly 100 million children have been removed from child labour, down from 246 million in 2000 to 152 million in 2016.

However, regional progress is unequal. About half of child labour occurs in Africa (72 million children), followed by Asia and the Pacific (62 million). 70% of children are employed in child labour in agriculture, mainly in agriculture and subsistence and livestock. About half of all these children work in jobs or situations that are considered dangerous to their health and well-being.

How does child labour looks?

• seven out of ten children used by child work in agriculture

• Child labour is not limited to poor countries. Half of the affected children live in middle-income countries

• The proportion of children used by child labour are too young to work

• The problem is more prevalent in countries experiencing conflict and disasters

Child Labor and Covid-19

While progress has been made to reduce the incidence of child labour since the turn of the century, it has been very slow. Now with the onset of the COVID-19, child labour rates are rising for the first time in more than 20 years.

Significant progress has been made in the last decade as a result of globalization. The Covid-19 not only exacerbated the situation but also threatened to delay the successful years in the fight against child labour (ILO, 2021). Indeed, as is the case with many problems, those most at risk of serious social problems will suffer. It has been shown that a one per cent increase in poverty creates at least a 0.7% increase in child labour in some countries. In times of crisis, child labour becomes a way to deal with many families and children, especially those from poor communities who are at risk of exploitation as parents become more and more vulnerable. Some may feel compelled to send their children to labour markets while others who are looking for work are at risk of being trafficked for forced labour.

Indeed, the risk of child labour is high when family members work in the informal economy, earn less money and have no access to the benefits of unemployment, health insurance, or any other form of social protection.


• Girls are more likely to be involved in less visible activities, so less commonly reported forms of child labour such as domestic work, and girls are more likely than boys to take on household chores, a type of work that can be considered child labour.

• Girls who drop out of school do so in moderation to do household chores, while boys may leave school early to join the staff.

• 48% of all child abuse victims are 5-11 years old.

• Forced labour is estimated to generate about $ 150 billion a year in illegal profits.

• Children who are forced by domestic or other circumstances to drop out of school before the age of 15 are less likely to get jobs and those who get jobs take longer to do so.

As a result, activists against child labour and society as a whole are demanding three significant steps by 2021:

1. First of all, the call to make child labour a priority is to be funded for the full benefit, by asking governments to create more resources and higher budgets for child labour efforts in their countries. Many countries such as Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda among others have introduced Strong National Action Plans to end child labour but await proper implementation due to lack of resources. Northern donor governments will also need to prioritize the use of children in their education and foreign aid programs.

 2. Activists are looking for a holistic approach to child labour, that is, one that addresses the root causes of child labour, including all stakeholders especially children and their communities. That approach will, among other things, ensure that efforts to address child labour in a particular area or area do not lead to more children working in another field or elsewhere.

 3. Civil society organizations aim to ensure that their active participation is included in the child employment policy and intervention programs. The planning of the global agenda and the national and regional dialogue, in particular, should encourage and facilitate the inclusion of the voices of the Southern private sector - those closest to the issue.

 There are many additional steps you would like to require. The above recommendations are not a comprehensive set of suggestions, but these important steps will support other actions. As we begin the year 2021 intentionally and urgently, we set a good opportunity to ensure that all children no longer have to endure the insults and dangers of child labour for the next five years or more.

Every child deserves a peaceful and safe childhood and the opportunity to go to school.

- Mahima Nigudkar

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