What are the latest child labour figures?

Week of 21 June 2021

What are the latest child labour figures?

Our key takeaway: The results are “alarming” to quote the ILO and UNICEF: child labour (including hazardous child labour) is high, and will worsen, if we don’t take urgent mitigation measures.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published ‘Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward’ containing the latest data on child labour. “What the report tells us is alarming. Global progress against child labour has stalled for the first time since we began producing global estimates two decades ago. In addition, without urgent mitigation measures, the COVID-19 crisis is likely to push millions more children into child labour”:

    • What are the numbers and where is it happening? 160 million children – 63 million girls and 97 million boys – were in child labour globally at the beginning of 2020, accounting for almost 1 in 10 of all children worldwide. 79 million children – nearly half of all those in child labour – were in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety and moral development. Although child labour exists all around the world, the report points to sub-Saharan Africa where there has been an increase in both the number and percentage of children in child labour since 2012: “There are now more children in child labour in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world combined.”
    • Some other facts and figures. Child labour is higher for boys than girls at all ages. Child labour is much more common in rural areas, and the largest share of child labour takes place within families (primarily on family farms or in family microenterprises). More than a quarter of children aged 5 to 11 and over a third of children aged 12 to 14 who are in child labour are out of school. Most child labour – for boys and girls alike – continues to occur in agriculture. Seventy per cent of all children in child labour (112 million children in total) are in agriculture. Many are younger children, underscoring agriculture as an entry point to child labour (over three quarters of all children aged 5 to 11 in child labour work in agriculture).
    • Impact of COVID-19 and next steps. “New analysis suggests a further 8.9 million children will be in child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of rising poverty driven by the pandemic.” The ILO and UNICEF point to the importance of social protection coverage to help protect against this increase in child labour. The report underscores the impact of poverty and school closures on child labour, and the need to focus on measures that tackle this. This includes expanded income support measures for families in situations of vulnerability, through child benefits and other means, as well as back-to-school campaigns and stepped-up remedial learning to get children back in the classroom and help them make up for lost learning once there. (We observe that while a number of the recommendations in the report are directed at governments, they provide guidance to companies sourcing from industries at risk of child labour of the kinds of actions to advocate for and consider supporting.)

For more, see ILO and UNICEF, Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward (June 2021)