Rome (Italy). 12 June 2024, marks World Day against Child Labor, established in 2002 by the International Labor Organization (ILO) – the United Nations agency promoting social justice and labor rights – to draw the attention of civil society, in particular of governments, employers, and workers’ organizations, to the situation of children at work and to the urgent need to take measures to end forms of exploitation.

“Let’s act according to our commitments: Let’s end child labor!” is the slogan for the Day 2024, which this year takes on particular importance as the 25 years of the Convention n. 182 against Child Labor adopted in 1999. This is the first ILO Convention to be ratified by all 182 States belonging to the Organization.

In addition to not having decreased in the decade 2010-2020, the percentage of children employed in work after the COVID-19 pandemic has even increased. According to UNICEF data, in the world’s poorest countries, just over 1 in 5 children are engaged in child labor.

In the 2030 Agenda, in particular under the Sustainable Development Goal 8 – “Encouraging lasting, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all” – point 8.7 proposes to “Take immediate and effective measures to eliminate forced labor, end modern slavery and trafficking in human beings, and ensure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 put an end to child labor in all its forms”.

The causes of child labor are many: insufficient economic growth in the country, conditions of poverty, needs on the part of the families of labor and, last but not least, the internal and external conflicts that impoverish sections of the population. Forced labor leads children to move away from education, an essential right that is not exercised precisely because of work needs. Poverty in families, in fact, often leads to considering children as a useful resource for the economic needs of the family. This is a problem to be eradicated in order to ensure better living conditions for children, a just and dignified life, thanks to education.

There is still a long way to go. The Office of Human Rights IIMA of the International Institute Mary Help of Christians in Geneva has carried out research on this issue. In particular, the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises of Benin states that about 92% of young people between 15 and 24 years old are in a state of exploitation and do not respect the standards of recruitment and remuneration. There has also been no improvement in the situation for children in Zambia as regards work. Therefore, although countries accept resolutions useful to address the issue, this does not detract from the effort that governments themselves must make to definitively eliminate this problem.

The responses to the recent questionnaire on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) conducted by IIMA, 17 Provinces continue the commitment to the eradication of child labor. From 2020 to 2023, the Educating Communities of India, Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, Madagascar, Benin, Lesotho, Zambia, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Mexico, and Cambodia carried out 177 projects with which they reached 76,680 boys and girls.

The fight against child exploitation is one of the essential battles of international society. The right denied to a dignified life for every child must be the engine that drives communities to improve in this regard, promoting their protection and serenity. To achieve this goal, it is necessary for everyone to collaborate: from the small realities of the cities in which you live, to the large metropolises where every government must take care to promote the right to a healthy life and without exploitation.

As Nelson Mandela wisely stated: “There is no more intense revelation of the soul of a society than the way it treats its children.” It is therefore the duty of all to ensure that no child is ever again exploited or deprived of the right to a dignified and happy life.


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