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New ILO Report Shows Marked Decline in Child Labor Worldwide

Press release from International Labor Organization | May 04, 2006

Geneva, Switzerland - Child labor, especially in its worst forms, is in decline for the first time across the globe, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said today, in a new, cautiously optimistic report entitled "The end of child labor: Within reach".
"Though the fight against child labor remains a daunting challenge, we are on the right track. We can end its worst forms in a decade, while not losing sight of the ultimate goal of ending all child labor."
- Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO

The ILO report also says that if the current pace of the decline were to be maintained and the global momentum to stop child labor continued, it believes child labor could feasibly be eliminated, in most of its worst forms, in 10 years.

"The end of child labor is within our reach," says Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO. "Though the fight against child labor remains a daunting challenge, we are on the right track. We can end its worst forms in a decade, while not losing sight of the ultimate goal of ending all child labor."

The new report says the actual number of child laborers worldwide fell by 11 per cent between 2000 and 2004, from 246 million to 218 million.

What's more, the number of children and youth aged 5- 17 trapped in hazardous work decreased by 26 per cent, to reach 126 million in 2004 as opposed to 171 million in the previous estimate. Among younger child laborers aged 5-14, this drop was even more pronounced at 33 per cent, says the report.

Four years ago, the ILO issued the most comprehensive report to date on global child labor. Applying the same statistical methodology used in that report, the ILO finds a significant decline in child labor since then.

The report attributed the reduction in child labor to increased political will and awareness and concrete action, particularly in the field of poverty reduction and mass education that has led to a "worldwide movement against child labor". Through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), the ILO assists in building national capacity to deal with child labor and providing policy advice. In addition, through direct action, the Programme over the past decade has reached some 5 million children. These initiatives have played a significant catalytic role, both in mobilizing action and demonstrating how child labor can be eliminated.

Over the last five years, IPEC has helped several countries put in place appropriate time-bound measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The report calls on all member States that haven't done so yet to adopt time-bound plans by 2008. According to the report, more than 30 member States of the ILO have already set time-bound targets with a similar or even earlier target date than 2016 to abolish the worst forms of child labor.

Despite considerable progress in the fight against child labor, the report also highlights important challenges, particularly in agriculture, where seven out of ten child laborers work. Other challenges include addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS on child labor, and building stronger links between child labor and youth employment concerns.

The report calls for greater national efforts, involving organizations representing employers and workers, as well as governments -- the partners that make up the tripartite ILO. It also calls for the strengthening of the worldwide movement to make child labor history. Meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015 would further help to eradicate child labor, the report says.

editors note Substantive information in this release is embargoed. Not for publication before 10 a.m. ET

Press Conference: Thursday, May 4 at noon. Senate Russell Office Building (Room 432).

Copies of the full report will be available at 10 a.m. at

The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) is the world's largest programme dedicated to the eradication of child labor and the biggest single operational programme of the ILO. Since its establishment in 1992, IPEC has spent US$350 million, with annual expenditure now running at US$50-60 million. Beyond the ILO's tripartite structure of governments and employers' and workers' organizations, IPEC works with others, including: private businesses, community-based organizations, NGOs, the media, parliamentarians, the judiciary, universities, religious groups and, of course, children and their families. National and community action is crucial for the success of the IPEC programme. Through local authorities and municipalities, IPEC can reach children in the informal economy and small and medium-sized businesses that provide the bulk of employment, and promote integrated approaches to get children out of work and into school.

Article has been adapted from a news release issued by International Labor Organization.

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