Washington, DC—The Child Labor Coalition (CLC) welcomes new estimates from the International Labour Organization that suggest a one third drop in the number of children trapped in child labor since 2000—from 248 million children to 168 million children. Over the last four years, the number of child laborers has fallen by 47 million—a 22 percent decrease.
“These ILO estimates are very encouraging,” said Sally Greenberg, co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), and the executive director of the National Consumers League. “We know what works now and the tremendous efforts of groups around the world must continue to shine a spotlight on the awful use of child labor. Governments, NGOs, corporations, and media have all helped to drive down the numbers of children toiling in appalling conditions around the world. We must continue to work until all children are removed from exploitative labor and the worst forms of child labor—labor that exploits them or endangers their health or development. ”
“Despite progress, 85 million children remain trapped in hazardous work,” added Greenberg. “News last week that a 6-year-old boy perished in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest is a glaring example of the danger children experience at work.”
“The number of children still engaged in child labor is staggering,” said Jo Becker, Director of the Children’s Rights Division for Human Rights Watch and a member of the CLC. “The global figures only tell part of the story. In hundreds of interviews, my colleagues and I at Human Rights Watch, have documented how these children live and the toll their work takes on their lives, their education, and their future. In Morocco last year, I spoke with Latifah, who was recruited when she was 12 to work in Casablanca as a domestic worker. She hoped it would offer her a better life, but instead she suffered beatings, verbal abuse, and toiled for 18 hours a day, cooking, doing laundry, cleaning floors, washing dishes, and caring for her employer’s children.
“The new statistics should prompt governments to take even stronger measures to end exploitation and dangerous child labor by better enforcing child labor laws, ensuring children go to school and prosecution of the employers who exploit children,” added Becker.
“The recent progress must be continued, and companies must step up their efforts to protect children,” noted Judy Gearhart, the chair of the CLC’s International Issues Committee and the executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum. Too many products—more than 130 have been identified by the US Department of Labor—are produced by children. All too often, we see lackluster responses from the corporate world when it becomes clear that supply chains include child labor. The NGO community and consumers must keep up the pressure to tackle this critical problem.
“Teachers and teacher organizations know that education is the key to human development, economic sustainability, promoting democracy, protecting human rights and finding social justice,” said Dr. Lorretta Johnson, CLC co-chair and secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers. “We cannot solve the child labor problem without education; the elimination of child labor and education-for-all are two sides of the same coin. We know this for sure: investment in education is the best investment our communities can make to help eliminate child labor.”
“Americans should be aware that in the recent past we’ve made little progress in cleaning up our own child labor problem in U.S. agriculture, noted CLC Domestic Committee Chair Norma Flores Lopez, the Children in the Fields Campaign Director for the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs. Weak child labor laws allow children as young as 12 to work unlimited hours while school is not in session and more than 400,000 children toil to put food on our tables. Many of these children are the sons and daughters of migrant farmworkers and these children pay a heavy price for the meager wages (often $2 or $3 an hour) they earn, often dropping out of school and suffering potential health risks because of working in fields that contain dangerous machinery and toxic pesticides.”
“The CLC urges Congress to remedy this deplorable situation by passing the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), H.R. 2342, legislation that would close the child labor loopholes for kids not working on their family’s farm and limit hazardous work on farms by workers under the age of 18,” said Flores Lopez.