The number of children engaged in child labour has risen for the first time since records began, and 160 million children are now in work. And an increase of 8.4 million children over last four years has halted progress on the scourge of child labour first time in over two decades, reversing the downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016.
The figures mean that one-in-ten of the world’s children is working in 2021, the official ‘year of the elimination of child labour,’ according to statistics from UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has written to foreign minister Simon Coveney seeking an engagement to beef up Ireland’s efforts to stop the scandal.
ICTU wants the State to support the ‘global march against child labour,’ and establish Irish Aid programmes in partner countries. It also wants the Government to consider joining the Alliance 8.7 global initiative, which coordinates global action to achieve target 8.7 of the UN’s sustainable development goals, including the elimination of child labour by 2025.
The alliance works with stakeholders to encourage countries to accelerate efforts to address child labour. So far 22 countries have made commitments, including Irish Aid partners Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam.
ICTU general secretary Patricia King said Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda have developed national action plans for the elimination of child labour, but poor resourcing is hampering implementation.
“The biggest setback has been the continuing pandemic which is reversing the progress made thus far, keeping children out of school and increasingly into work with the socio-economic impacts further pushing already vulnerable communities to the margins. National child labour laws and policies remain under-enforced and under-resourced,” she said.
Patricia called for a new ‘social contract’ for working people, with commitments to decent work, social protection and inclusive care and education services. “Parents who find themselves in deep poverty, with no access to quality education, feel they have no option but to utilise child labour in order to survive. No parent should have to make that choice,” she said.
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