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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

World Day Against Child Labour puts spotlight on harmful effects

© UNICEF/HQ05-1948/LeMoyne
A Haitian boy plants rice in the countryside near the city of Gonaives.
By Kun Li

NEW YORK, 9 June 2006 – Today, an estimated 246 million children worldwide are engaged in some kind of labour, about 180 million of them in hazardous conditions. To focus global attention on the urgent need to eradicate this practice, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has designated 12 June as World Day Against Child Labour.

“Child labour is a widespread phenomenon all over the world,” said UNICEF’s Senior Advisor on Child Protection, Gopalan Balagopal. “I should clarify here that we do not consider all forms of work as undesirable. In fact, certain types of work can help children become more competent adults. But when work stands between a child and his or her chances for education, or affects his or her health, then we consider this a violation of the rights of children.”

In addition to being denied education, children who work are frequently victims of mistreatment, physical violence and psychological abuse. Girls are even more vulnerable, often becoming easy targets of sexual abuse by employers and co-workers.

© UNICEF/HQ01-0019/Pirozzi
A girl selling food and spices on a street in Kaduna, northern Nigeria.

Worst forms of child labour

“There are as many as 8.4 million children who are in what we consider the worst forms of child labour,” added Mr. Balagopal. “These are children who are employed as child soldiers or who are prostituted, subjected to sex trade or trafficked across borders. We also have children who are in a bonded labour situation very close to slavery.”

UNICEF believes that child labour not only hinders children’s well-being but also slows the world’s progress in achieving its long-term development goals. Along with partners such as the ILO, UNESCO and the World Bank, UNICEF has formed the Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education for All to promote policies, generate resources and put in place practical measures that combat child labour.

“As long as children are continuing to work, they can’t educate themselves, and as long as children continue to be paid wages that are a fraction of what adults would be paid, poverty will persist,” explained Mr. Balagopal.

“Child labour is something you can consider both a cost and a consequence of poverty, and we must address that,” he added.




9 June 2006: UNICEF’s Senior Advisor on Child Protection, Gopalan Balagopal, explains how child labour affects children’s well-being and development.

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