A new report claims good progress on child labour, but warns against complacency

A new report from the International Labour Organization’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) shows a steep decline in child workers worldwide during the period 2008-2012. The report is the latest in IPEC’s periodic surveys that aim to measure trends in child labour, towards the ILO target to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2016.

The report identifies 168 million children engaged in child labour worldwide, down from 215 million in 2008, and 245 million in 2000. More than half are involved in hazardous work, considered one of the worst forms of child labour. While Asia and the Pacific regions report the highest absolute numbers of child labourers, the highest rate of child labour per capita remains in sub-Saharan Africa.

Devil in the detail

While the improvements in numbers are heartening, the picture is considerably more complex in the detail. The report is transparent on the fact that gaps remain in the data, citing “eastern Europe, central Asia, the Pacific, developed countries and several Asian countries” as having missing or incomplete data.

However, IPEC’s senior statistician Yacouba Diallo says the picture is getting better. “Our current data coverage is an improvement on our previous estimate. We cover...

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