Prevalence of Child Labour

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Children around the world are routinely engaged in paid and unpaid forms of work that are not harmful to them. However, they are classified as child labourers when they are either too young to work, or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development. In the least developed countries, slightly more than one in four children (ages 5 to 17) are engaged in labour that is considered detrimental to their health and development.

The 2022 theme of the world day calls for increased investment in social protection systems and schemes to establish solid social protection floors and protect children from child labour.  While significant progress has been made in reducing child labour over the last two decades, progress has slowed over time, and it has even stalled during the period 2016-2020. Today, 160 million children still engaged in child labour – some as young as 5. Government social protection systems are essential to fight poverty and vulnerability, and eradicate and prevent child labour. Social protection is both a human right and a potent policy tool to prevent families from resorting to child labour in times of crisis. However, as of 2020 and before the COVID-19 crisis took hold, only 46.9 per cent of the global population were effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit while the remaining 53.1 per cent – as many as 4.1 billion people – were left wholly unprotected. Coverage for children is even lower. Significant progress towards ending child labour requires increased investment in universal social protection systems, as part of an integrated and comprehensive approach to tackle the problem.

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