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Child labour increases for the first time in two decades

Ground Report | New Delhi: The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that the world has seen an increase in the number of children engaged in child labour for the first time in 20 years. The report warns that the coronavirus crisis threatens to push more teenagers to the same fate. The number of child labourers has increased from 15.2 crore in 2016 to 16 crore. This shows that the major gains achieved since 2000, when 246 million children were engaged in labour, are reversing.

It has been said in the joint report that if big steps are not taken, then by the end of 2022 this figure can go up to 206 million. According to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, “We are losing ground in the fight against child labour, and the past year has not made that fight easy.” According to him, “Now, in the second year of the global lockdown, school closures, economic disruption and shrinking budgets are forcing families to make heartbreaking choices.”


The greatest increase in child labour was seen in Africa mainly due to population growth, crisis and poverty. In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly a quarter of children aged five to 17 are already in child labour, compared to 2.3 percent in Europe and North America. The agencies warned that the Corona crisis could push children already engaged in child labour to work longer hours and in deteriorating conditions.

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According to the report’s co-author and UNICEF statistics expert Claudia Capa, “If Social Security coverage slips from current levels, the number of children in child labour as a result of spending cuts and other factors is (an additional) 4.6 by the end of next year.” can increase to crores.

The report, which is published every four years, shows that the number of children aged five to 11 years is more than half of the global number. However, boys are more likely to go into child labour. There has also been an increase in the number of children between the ages of five and 17 who are engaged in mining or “dangerous work” with heavy machines for more than 43 hours a week, the report says. 

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in a statement: “The new estimates are a warning. We cannot see a new generation of children being put at risk.”

The United Nations has declared 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. The UN has urged countries to achieve the goal of taking immediate action to eliminate it by 2025. The UN says that immediate steps are needed in this direction because more children are seen to be in danger due to covid-19 and years of progress seem to be in jeopardy.

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According to the Indian labour law, it is illegal for children below the age of 15 to work. But after school, he can join the family business. This provision is widely exploited by employers and human traffickers. In states like Bihar, where 4.5 lakh children work as labourers, such mechanisms are being prepared in which child labour can be mapped. The number of working children in the age group of 5 to 14 years in the whole country is about 44 lakhs.

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