Our post-pandemic world should be one free from child labour. One that leaves us with a healthier planet, stronger cities and towns, and kids with revitalized dreams for their futures.
Some may have been inspired by the resilience of healthcare workers in their communities. Others might decide to dedicate themselves to careers of public service. The key to flourishing future communities is that children have healthy, safe, and fulfilling childhoods.
Even in 2021, some see a bright future ahead. For many others, COVID-19 has wrought negative effects poised to last a lifetime. As the pandemic strains families and forces children into precarious work, we must form a united front against child labour.
The challenge was steep even before the pandemic hit: 152 million children are in child labour globally. That means almost one in 10 of all children worldwide are working, threatening their wellbeing and their future. Nearly half of all those in child labour, about 73 million children, are in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety, and moral development.
That’s why Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls on the global community to eliminate child labour in all its forms by 2025.
Holistic solutions, including institutional and legal support that protect children from harm and exploitation, have become much more urgent.
Here are five reasons we need to step up action on ending child labour:
1. 152 million children are still in child labour.
The International Year is a call to global action, an opportunity to address the fundamental structural problems of poverty and inequality in the run-up to 2025. The big picture shows a shift in the right direction: The number of children in hazardous work has fallen by more than half since 2000, when the ILO first started keeping track of the issue. But it’s still not enough.
2. Progress is slowing.
Progress on the elimination of child labour slowed from 2012 to 2016. The share of children in child labour fell by only one percentage point during this four-year period, compared to three percentage points in the previous period. We must move faster than ever to completely eliminate child labour by 2025.
3. The UN declared it an international year.
2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour because acceleration is our only option. At this point, joining forces through global cooperation and partnerships is critical. We must drive action, share knowledge, and implement innovative solutions. The International Year is also meant to propel momentum toward the V Global Conference on Child Labour (VGC), which will take place in South Africa in 2022.
4. COVID-19 is reversing progress.
The pandemic has changed everything. Millions of children are at risk of falling into extreme poverty, in addition to the more than 380 million children already living in such circumstances. And global disruptions to education, due to lockdowns, and a lack of access to online learning solutions, could drive child labour numbers up. We were already moving at top speed, but now we must go faster and farther.
5. Together, we can make a difference.
Stakeholders at every level, from the international to the local, can make a difference. Learn about the specific actions you can take by reading our Practical Guide. You’ll find effective tips and realistic advice in line with our three-pillar strategy: act, inspire, and scale up.
We have four years to meet the 2025 deadline. Ending child labour requires immediate action, accelerated motivation, and collaborative partnerships at all levels – now.
Let’s make a difference. Let’s make sure that no child is left behind.
Let’s make 2021 for children.