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New Global Estimates: A call to ACT NOW!

“The new estimates are a wake-up call. We cannot stand by while a new generation of children is put at risk." Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General

For the first time in 2 decades, the number of children in child labour has increased, even before taking into account the on-going COVID-19 crisis causing school closures and threatening family livelihoods, according to the latest global estimates put out by the ILO and UNICEF.

As of 2020, there are 160 million children in child labour around the world, doing work that is harmful to their heath, safety, development and future, this is a 6% increase since the previous estimates in 2016. What does this mean? Here are some quick figures:

  • 1 in every 10 children is in child labour globally

  • 87 million children are in child labour in Sub-Saharan Africa -- 1 in every 4 children

  • 79 million children are doing hazardous work, putting their health and safety in immediate danger - this is a 9% increase since 2016

  • Child labour is 3x higher in rural areas than in cities

  • 70% of child labour is in agriculture, mostly on family farms

Focus on Agriculture

There has been almost no change in the percentage of children in child labour in agriculture and, in fact, build on the previous report released in 2017. The last report had already shown an increase in child labour in Africa, where smallholder agriculture is the main economic activity, which entails that most child labour takes place within the family unit.

The 2020 US Department of Labour report confirms this, with sugarcane, coffee, tobacco, cotton, cattle and cocoa all identified on the list of goods with the most child labour listings by country. The report also confirmed that child labour is involved in the production of 68 agricultural goods.

A call for urgent, collaborative action and investment

The Global Estimates stress that now more than ever there is an urgent need for collaboration across sectors and investment in: education, decent work for youth, economic development and social protection. Children, farmers and families are at more risk as the global pandemic continues.

Without sufficient investment to mitigate this crisis the Global Estimates Report states that, "the number of children in child labour could rise from 160 million in 2020 to 168.9 million by the end of 2022." However, with urgent action and investment, the increase could be reversed and it would be possible to reduce the number of children in child labour to 145 million by 2022.

With the SDG accelerated target 8.7 to end child labour by 2025 fast approaching, ECLT renews our commitment to invest building capacities, support collaboration and provide technical assistance to fight the root causes of child labour and support thriving agricultural communities.