How many children are victims of child labour worldwide?

by Elsa Ohlen | @elsa_ohlen | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 12 June 2020 10:35 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A boy carries bricks on his head at a riverside factory where mud is fired in kilns to produce building materials on the outskirts of Chad's capital N'Djamena, May 31 2008. Many children are used as cheap labour transporting bricks. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Image Caption and Rights Information

Coronavirus pandemic could push millions more children into work, United Nations warns on World Day Against Child Labour

By Elsa Ohlen

LONDON, June 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Two decades of global progress in reducing child labour could be jeopardised by the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations said on Friday, warning that millions more children were at risk of being put to work.

Children who were already working before the pandemic may now be facing longer hours and worse conditions, while others could be forced to work by families struggling to survive the economic downturn, according to a report by two U.N. agencies.

The number of child labourers worldwide has dropped significantly to 152 million children from 246 million in 2000, the U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) said to mark World Day Against Child Labour.

Yet the pandemic could spur the first uptick in child labour in 20 years, according to the United Nations.

"As the pandemic wreaks havoc on family incomes, without support, many could resort to child labour," ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in a statement.

Here are some more facts about child labour:

- Almost a tenth of all children worldwide are engaged in child labour.

- Of the 152 million victims globally, about half are engaged in dangerous work in sectors such as construction, agriculture, mining and brick and stone manufacturing.

- About 70% work in agriculture - including fishing, forestry and livestock herding - while 17% are in the service industry and 12% are in the industrial sector, including mining.

- Boys account for 58% of all victims of child labour. But this statistic could reflect an underreporting of girls' work as many of those in domestic servitude are thought to go uncounted.

- About 72.1 million child labourers are in Africa, 62.1 million in Asia and the Pacific, 10.7 million in the Americas, 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia, and 1.2 million in the Arab states.

- The prevalence of child labour is 77 percent higher in countries where there is conflict.

- The United Nations has a goal of ending all forms of child labour by 2025, as part of one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon in 2015.

Sources: United Nations, World Bank

Related stories:

Lockdown reveals rampant child labour in India as kids stream home

Expose reveals child labour in Cambodian brick kilns despite crackdown

Tesla, Apple among firms accused of aiding child labor in Africa

(Reporting by Elsa Ohlen, Editing by Kieran Guilbert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.