Since 2002, the 12th of June (today) is known as the World Day Against Child Labor. The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labor to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it.
You would think that after all these years and all effort, we would see a decrease in global numbers, but sadly this is not the case and an increase of numbers is seen as more and more families have fallen into poverty due to conflicts, crises, and since 2020, the Covid 19-pandemic, pushing children to join the workforce. Global estimates from the ILO indicate that 160 million children between 5-17 years old were engaged in child labor in 2021 of which about 79 million were in hazardous labor.
The ILO and UNICEF, the children’s organization of the United Nations (UN), calls for action from governments in the closing of the social protection coverage gap to reduce child labor and released an extensive report covering this subject, including recommendations on how to strengthen the design of social protection programs; in many cases where there are programs in place, they are not designed with the objective of benefitting children directly or to address child labor risk specifically, yet many countries also have no program in place at all, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where child labor is very present.
It is found that families who have access to social supports, like unemployment benefits or programs to freely obtain food, are less likely to resort to child labor to help a crisis such as a lost job, an injury, illness, or another cause.
As brands, it is hard to address the issue of child labor as after letting an underage laborer go, it is not unlikely that the child will seek employment elsewhere to aid the financial situation at home. Engagement with governments when the opportunity allows is therefore strongly encouraged and to work together with the local community on solutions to offer opportunities for schooling and time on the playground instead of full-time employment.
By reducing family poverty risks and vulnerability, supporting livelihoods and school enrolment amongst other things, government social protection systems are essential in the fight to eradicate and prevent child labour (ILO 2013; ILO and UNICEF 2019 and 2021; Dammert et al. 2018; De Hoop and Rosati 2014a).