SEATTLE, Washington — Child labor remains a prominent issue in our world. A 2016 report found nearly 152 million children aged 5 to 17 were involved in some form of child labor. Furthermore, 73 million of those children are subjected to hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety and moral development. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the 2016 results indicate that child labor has declined globally but only very minimally.
International Labor Organization (ILO)
The ILO reports a reduction in child labor by 94 million since 2000, and although overall data shows a decrease in child labor, the global crisis persists. The international community has renewed its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of eliminating all forms of child labor by 2025. To successfully make this a reality, the ILO has implemented new policies and programs within the four central policy areas: legal standards and regulations, labor markets, social protection and education. These policy areas are linked not only to the SDGs concerning poverty eradication, quality education and decent work but also to the foundational objective of the 2030 agenda to achieve “peaceful, just and inclusive societies.”
As children are subjected to hazardous and forced labor from young ages, the progressive “ratification of two ILO standards relating to child labor” has had a drastic impact. The ratification of ILO Minimum Age Convention No. 138 and the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention No. 182 has been ratified by 46 of 49 countries in Europe. The ratifications of No. 138 cover 80% of children’s rights to minimum wage, while No. 182 covers upwards of 99.9%, providing proper legal protection to all children.
The Bigger Picture
According to ILO reports, 152 million children are exploited for low wages, and upwards of 5.5 million reside in Europe and Central Asia. Europe, specifically, is a well-developed region, and often, the thought of child labor is overlooked, unlike in developing regions. Research from the United Nations shows that in Georgia, 29% of children are being used for labor, in Albania 19%, and in Russia, it’s up to 1 million. Children can be subjected to dangerous working conditions for long hours, like in Bulgaria’s tobacco industry, where children work for nearly 10 hours a day.
Other countries in Europe, such as Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Portugal, have staggering child labor issues. Because of Europe’s lack of supervision and statistics, it is difficult to assess and solve the problem. Moreover, due to child labor going unaddressed in Europe, there is a substantial lack of data in these regions. As children are in their peak of development, exposure to hazardous conditions and being unable to attend school can be detrimental to children’s development. Furthermore, forced child labor is linked to child poverty. If children do not attend school and work instead, the cycle of poverty continues.
The Next Step
Awareness is one of the most valuable factors when advocating for the abolishment of child labor. Specifically, in regions and countries that are well-developed, child labor is massively overlooked. To bring global awareness to child labor and trafficking, the ILO launched the World Against Child Labor Day in 2002. Each year, on June 12, the ILO informs the public on how dangerous child labor is, highlighting the significant harms to children and following the adoption guidelines for supervision of labor standards to alleviate the global crisis.
Along with this, international organizations are urging authorities and political leaders to pay closer attention to Europe’s child labor crisis, similar to the global monitoring. The International Initiative to End Child Labor (IIECL) is working in partnership with the European Human Resources without Borders to collaborate on alleviating child labor projects in Europe.
Powerful strides have been made in eliminating child labor globally. With the help of humanitarian international organizations addressing this issue, there is hope that the goal of eliminating child labor by 2025 can be attained.