Magazine article UN Chronicle

50 to 200 Million Children under 15 Are in World's Work Force, ILO Says

Magazine article UN Chronicle

50 to 200 Million Children under 15 Are in World's Work Force, ILO Says

Article excerpt

50 to 200 million children under 15 are in world's work force, ILO says

Many children in the third worldcan be found working in dangerous industries such as mining or fireworks manufacturing. Many others are used as cheap labour in pesticide-soaked fields and in street trades in urban areas. The exact number of working children under age 15 is unknown, but a recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) study estimates that the figure around the world could range from 50 million to almost 200 million.

In some Asian countries, child workersunder 15 years of age represent as much as 11 per cent of the entire labour force. In parts of Africa, the proportion is as high as 17 per cent; in some Latin American countries, an estimated 12 to 26 per cent of the children may be working.

Since the 1960s, considerableprogress has been made in reducing child labour, due largely to the expansion of primary education in developing countries--one way of keeping the youngest and most vulnerable of a nation's populace out of the labour market. Above all, eliminating childr labour requires a cure for the social ills that spawn it--mass poverty and unemployment.

School enrolment rates for childrenaged 6 to 11 doubled in Africa between 1960 and 1985--from 32.7 to 65.9 per cent. In Asia enrolment rose from 54.4 to 73.6 per cent during the same period, while in Latin America and the Caribbean it increased from 57.7 to 83.5 per cent.

In third world nations, children whowork in dangerous industries are maimed and may contract fatal or disabling diseases. They also may work in workshops or service establishments.

According to the ILO study, childLabour, A Briefing Manual, even helping on the family farm or earning pocket money after school is considered child labour, when children "are forced to lead prematural adult lives, condemned to a cruel present and to a bleak future".

The situation is most disturbing inlow-income developing countries, both in the size of the problem and in the limited scope for action. But even in these countries, measures can be taken to protect working children from hazardous conditions, the study states. It recommends focusing on areas where there is relatively serious exploitation of child labour and gradually extending action to other sectors. …

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