Governments need to step up if the goal of eradicating child labour by 2025, and forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030, is to be reached.
Insight from Frederico Blanco Allais and Michaëlle De Cock, Senior Statisticians at the International Labour Organisation (ILO)
The International Labour Organisation embraces tough deadlines because it spurs on action. However, even its most optimistic statisticians believe it may be a stretch for the international community to hit a 2025 deadline to end child labour and forced labour.
The Target 8.7 was set in 2015 by the UN. Alliance 8.7 was created to help national governments achieve this ambitious undertaking, in coordination with workers’ and employers’ organisations, civil society organisations, United Nations and other international organisations.
There are just over 152 million children, aged 5 to 17, engaged in child labour.
Since 2000, the ILO has supported countries to collect data on child labour, which are used to inform policymakers at national level and to produce regular global and regional estimates.
With underage working, the ILO statistics suggest there are just over 152 million children, aged 5 to 17, engaged in child labour and around half of these, 73 million, are performing hazardous work.
Some encouraging signs for children
Federico Blanco Allais, Senior Statistician at the ILO, reveals there has been some encouraging progress on reducing child labour since 2000, in particular in Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia and the Pacific.
The best way to tackle child labour is to offer a good education system to encourage parents to keep their children in school.
“The best way to tackle child labour is to offer a good education system to encourage parents to send their children to school and keep them there,” he says.
“The other critical issue is social protection. Child labour most usually happens when families are exposed to shocks, such as losing a job, illness or an accident, which means the breadwinner can no longer earn. It helps greatly to have access to social protection and to credit, so that households are not forced to resort to child labour as a fall-back mechanism.”
Although child labour has decreased globally, in sub-Saharan Africa, child labour rates are increasing. There are many factors in play, although Blanco points to improvements that could be made in education policies and improving agricultural yields so families earn enough money without making children work the land.
Preventing and detecting forced labour
The latest statistics, developed jointly by the ILO and Walk Free Foundation in partnership with the IOM, estimate there are just over 40 million adults in modern slavery globally – 25 million are employed in forced labour and 15 million are trapped in forced marriages. Michaelle De Cock, Senior Statistician at the ILO, reveals that – just as with child labour – one of the prevention strategies is access to decent work for all and better social protection. This means fewer people are forced to seek work abroad on the promise of good wages, only to find they are not being paid and their passport has been withheld.
With improved social protection and decent work for all, fewer people are forced to seek work and better wages abroad.
“Good migration governance is key to prevention and protection efforts. We’re working on fair recruitment guidelines that need to be enforced to ensure that workers do not pay any recruitment fees to get a job. This is one of the measures to fight against debt bondage (which affect 51 per cent of the victims in the private economy),” she says.
“When the employer holds back money, the employee is effectively bonded to them. We also call for better detection and there is also a lot of good work being done, such as with the UK’s Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority.”
Once detected, victims need to be protected to recover from their traumatic experience of forced labour and receive counselling and training to prevent falling again in it. Social and economic assistance is needed for both short- and long-term recovery and rehabilitation. Victims’ participation in legal proceedings against their exploiters is encouraged.
The ILO is asking for more and better data, improved capacity of national data collection, and refinement and improvement in the measurement of forced labour.
ILO statisticians believe that, unless more efforts are put into the prevention and detection of child labour and forced labour, the eradication deadlines will not be met.