Every tenth child in the world, which amounts to over 150 million in total, are forced to work to support their family financially, according to the human rights organisation Terre des Hommes. This finding was published in the organisation’s 2019 Child Labour Report, which it published for International Child Labour Day (12 June). EURACTIV Germany reports.
The good news is that global child labour has fallen sharply in recent decades; in 2000, 246 million children were working.
According to the study, almost half of the children affected work under conditions that are dangerous or exploitative. In many regions of the world, whole industries depend on the employment of minors. An estimated 2.2 million children are active on West African cocoa plantations, some of them working 12 hours a day.
Overall, Africa has the highest rate of child labour with 72 million minors, followed by Asia with 62 million. More than two-thirds of these children work in the agricultural sector.
For many families, the necessity to have to work is a vicious circle that prevents children from going to school, which in turn prevents them from improving their own living conditions.
During her visit to Geneva on 11 June, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO), German Chancellor Angela Merkel also referred to this global problem, described it as “a state of affairs that we can never accept.” She stated that it was a nightmare that almost half of the working children are between five and eleven years old.
Today (12 June), the Children’s Commission of the German government, which is part of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, welcomed the work of international organisations such as Terre des Hommes and pointed out that each individual could “do something about the exploitation of children through conscious consumer choices.”
Christian Schneider, Managing Director of UNICEF Germany, also emphasised the role of businesses. He stated that in addition to governments, companies also bear “a great social responsibility that goes far beyond a strict ban on child labour in their global supply chain.”
Human rights organisations, therefore, demand comprehensive solutions.
They propose that all states should declare and enforce compulsory education. They call for the legal alignment between the end of compulsory education and the minimum working age. They also urge the strengthening of state supervisory authorities and the punishing of employers who exploit children. In addition, they deem it crucial for parents to be informed about the individual and social consequences of exploitative child labour.
In the vast majority of the world’s states, there is a law that prohibits working below a certain age.
In Germany, the Youth Employment Protection Act stipulates that the minimum working age is 13, which is restricted to light activities, such as carrying out newspapers. When minors have finished school, they can take up a 40-hour week from the age of 15.
As part of the 2015 UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), almost all countries in the world have agreed to completely eliminate exploitative child labour by 2025.