RE: World Day Against Child Labor — Are We Making Progress?
NEW YORK — Friday, June 12, 2020, marked the 19th annual World Day Against Child Labor sponsored by the International Labor Organization with the cooperation of UNICEF. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the magnitude of the problem of child labor.
Typically, the World Day Against Child Labor focuses on bringing attention to the harmful physical and mental problems suffered by children who are forced to work between the ages of five and seventeen. This year’s theme reflected the concern with the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential to reverse progress already made to eliminate child labor. This seems to be particularly important as we approach 2021, which the United Nations General Assembly has declared “The International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.”
How bad is the problem of child labor? How much progress have we made toward the goal of eliminating child labor?
The first World Day Against Child Labor was held in 2002. Yet, the latest statistics are really only estimates, so there is no statistical reliability for either the total numbers of children burdened or actual progress being made. This is not an editorial comment. This is a fact reported by the ILO and available in a copious amount of public documents and publications.
My hope in reporting on the 2020 World Day Against Child Labor was to discover great things that have been accomplished. I was disappointed to learn that “there are around 152 million children worldwide working as child laborers.” That is the same number reported last year — and the year before — and the two years before that. Last year, Beate Andrees, Chief of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch, said, ““The struggle against child labor has gained extraordinary momentum over the past two decades.” But she also said, “152 million children across the world are still in child labor.” A graphics box in that same online article indicated that 152 million children in child labor was an estimate from 2016.
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