Population growth, extreme poverty, and inadequate social protection measures in sub-Saharan Africa have led to an additional 16.6 million children in child labour over the past four years, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF said in a new report.

According to the organisations, 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.

The Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward report– released ahead of World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June – warns that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years.

The report points to a significant rise in the number of children aged five to 11 in child labour, who now account for just over half of the total global figure.

‘The new estimates are a wake-up call. We can not stand by while a new generation of children is put at risk’, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said.

‘Inclusive social protection allows families to keep their children in school even in the face of economic hardship. Increased investment in rural development and decent work in agriculture is essential.

‘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’.

The report warns that globally, nine million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. A simulation model shows this number could rise to 46 million if they do not have access to critical social protection coverage.

‘We are losing ground in the fight against child labour, and the last year has not made that fight any easier’, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

‘Now, well into a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions, and shrinking national budgets, families are forced to make heart-breaking choices.

‘We urge governments and international development banks to prioritise investments in programmes that can get children out of the workforce and back into school, and in social protection programmes that can help families avoid making this choice in the first place’.

Source: UNICEF

Photo source: John Atherton

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