The Year We Eliminate Child Labor

The UN has declared 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour

By Constance Ndeleko

The UN General Assembly  urged the international community to step up efforts to eradicate forced labor and child labor, and declared 2021 as the Year for the Elimination of Child Labor.

Substantial progress has been realized in recent years, mostly because of intense advocacy and national mobilization supported by legislative and practical action. However, COVID-19 crisis impends to inverse years of progress thus there’s a clear need we call for Support on ending child labor.

Child labor refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful.

Children may be driven into work for various reasons. Frequently, child labor happens when families face financial difficulties or uncertainty this could be out of poverty, sudden illness of a caregiver, or job loss of a primary wage earner; during this pandemic job loss has highly been experienced thus forcing children to become laborers as coping mechanism for their families.

In Africa domestic labor demand is a major issue for school dropout, where girls are mostly needed for house chores while boys are inclined to work on family farms thus making the choice of sending a child to school not only a matter of cost but also a substantial indirect cost in terms of unused labor. This also outlines the linkage of poverty and child labor.

We have all witnessed children begging on the streets in Senegal, in Uganda children vending on the streets, in Ghana children working in Cocoa farms, in Kenya children working in gold mines, as well as children being recruited as child soldiers in Central Africa and other conflict states. Disturbingly, we have read and watched stories of child trafficking which is being initiated from the online space leading to online sexual abuse and extortion or physical meet ups that have resulted into child trafficking.

It is time to take immediate action towards combating child labor, ending modern slavery and human trafficking by influencing effective measures that will eradicate the worst forms of forced labor including recruitment of child soldiers and child prostitution even on the online space.

Every one of five African children is laborer. Africa tops the list with 72.1 million child laborers, whereas Asia and Pacific rank second with 62.1 million of them.

Nearly 1 in 10 children are subjected to child labor worldwide, with some forced into hazardous work through trafficking. An estimated 246 million children are engaged in child labor.

5.7 million are forced into debt bondage or other forms of slavery, 1.8 million are forced into prostitution or pornography and 600,000 are engaged in other illicit activities.

According to gender distribution, there are 88 million boys and 64 million girls working as part of the labor force all around the world.

The agriculture sector, including the fishery, forestry, stockbreeding, and commercial farming, corresponds to 71% share in child labor.

The ILO estimates that 152 million children are currently in child labor, of whom 73 million are in hazardous forms of work. The international community has set a goal of ending child labor in all its forms by 2025, in Sustainable Development Goal  (SDG) Target 8.7 .

During a pandemic or a crisis children are the most vulnerable and at a greater risk of maltreatment and neglect. Lockdowns or social isolation during the Covid-19 outbreak have resulted and caused in fears of economic recession and falls in stock market.

These unprecedented disruptions in the global production market have increased the risk of unemployment evoked by the Covid-19 outbreak. The ILO reported that the dramatic decline of jobs and aggregated hours of work have already affected the world’s 3.3 billion workers during the recent lockdown measures.


Previous reports indicate that; ‘Around 9.1% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa are already in extreme poverty including 3.9 million children who are deprived of food at the end of first 8-weeks of the lockdown during the Covid-19 outbreak.’ Even when schools have opened in most countries, some children have not been able to amicably return to school as a result of fending for their needs as they have been sabotaged into being laborers.

We need a collaborative effort to ensure the children situations are not being exacerbated further especially those from vulnerable setting like children on the move, refugees, IDPs, those living with disabilities or those in slums and deep rural settings. We have to ensure that we bring children back to school as schools serves more than just for academic purposes.

It is paramount that we create awareness and sensitize the communities on the negative impacts of child labor which is detrimental to the lives of children and their wellbeing. Importantly, we should initiate safe spaces for children to voice out their issues.

Governments have to take control of protecting its children and ensure that their rights are protected as well as ensure that they are safe from abuse and hazardous duties that will potentially hinder their growth and development mentally, physically and socially.

CSOs and other organizations need to ensure that the already existing policies and laws such as the labor laws are implemented or revised to ensure they fit implementation of child policies even at grassroot levels.

It is also equally important for children to be enlightened of their rights and responsibilities as well as where and to whom they should direct their concerns if they find themselves in situations that limit the from enjoying their rights.

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