Foreign Policy Blogs

Decreasing Child Labor in 2012

Photo: Anupam Nath/Associated Press

One of the biggest priorities in 2012 is to decrease child labor. According to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) most recent global estimate, 215 million children worldwide are involved in child labor.

On the positive side, the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) latest 2010 global report, Accelerating action against child labour, showed a slight decline in child labor. Most significantly, children workers between the ages of five and fourteen decreased by 10%. Growing international efforts to increase awareness and prevent discrimination of girls may be to thank for a 15% decrease in female child labor.

However, these improvements may only represent a shift in the ages of child laborers and a decrease in the most harmful types of labor alone.  While child labor among girls may be on the decline, the number of under-aged boys employed has sadly increased by 7%.   Additionally, while children aged 5 to 14 worked less, the employment of 15 to 17 year-olds increased by 20%, from 52 million to 62 million.  The biggest global concern is that the majority of child laborers, some three-fourths, are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including: child soldiers, sexual exploitation and hazardous work in industries such as brick manufacturing.

Following the 2010 report, the ILO took key steps to increase the prevention and decline of child labor. First, the ILO endorsed a Global Action Plan for achieving the elimination of the worst forms of child labor by 2016.  The the ambitious plan was then accompanied by the 2011 ILO report, Children in Hazardous Work: What we Know, What we Need to Know. According to the report there are 115 million children engaged in the most hazardous forms of labor, which endangers children’s safety, health and development across the globe.  The report highlighted the recent rise in hazardous work among older children and stated growing evidence that adolescents suffer higher rates of injury at work compared to adult workers.

The battle to decrease child labor in 2012 and keep on track with the 2016 goals will be difficult, especially amid growing concerns that the ongoing global economic crisis is  impeding efforts.  As the stretched economy increased demand for cheap products, it subsequently raised the demand for cheap and slave labor, thus contributing to global poverty.  Child labor has a direct link to poverty, and provides a substantial barrier to a child’s education, increasing the literacy gap. Education is often taken for granted in developing nations; however, many poor and impoverished families are forced to face the choice of whether to send their children to school or to work to help the family. It is that choice that has sent millions of children out of the classroom, most often girls, to toil in fields, factories, homes and the streets.

As we close the first month of the year, headlines are already brewing about child labor violations by Apple, Hersey and the cocoa industry, as well as the cotton industry.  It appears that while the fight against child labor looks to be on the forefront of the global agenda, the road ahead for 2012 will continue to be rocky.  See the follow-up of this article, Battling Child Labor in the Cocoa and Cotton Fields, tomorrow for an analysis on recent reports of child labor violations.

 

Author

Cassandra Clifford
Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.


Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict

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