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2021 – UN Year for the Elimination of Child Labor

In 2021, the United Nations aims to raise awareness of the devastating effects of child labor.

Small boy kneeling on a waste dump holding a large sack and collecting garbage.

A young boy collecting garbage on a waste dump in New Delhi, India.

©iStockphoto.com/Tinnakorn Jorruang

Child Labor Still Affects Millions

While global statistics on issues like poverty, life expectancy, and child mortality indicate that the world has become a better place in recent decades, child labor remains a problem of staggering proportions. About 168 million children worldwide are engaged in child labor, according to estimates published by UNICEF.

What Is Child Labor?

The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labor as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”

The ILO's definition of child labor includes all work that is dangerous and harmful to children, or that prevents them from attending school. In its worst form, child labor can involve “children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses, and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities.”

Raising Awareness

The International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor is a United Nations initiative designed to highlight the importance of eradicating this issue. As stated in resolution A/RES/73/327, the UN invites member states, organizations, and citizens to mark the year with “activities aimed at raising awareness of the importance of the eradication of child labor, and to share best practices in this regard.”

The initiative is aimed to further the goals of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda detailing 17 global goals for sustainable development. One of these goals is the fight against poverty worldwide, which is one of the principal drivers of child labor.

What Can You Do?

Here are three simple ways you can help to fight child labor:

  1. Becoming aware of the problem and educating yourself about the factors causing it is an important first step. Then, spread the word: let others around you know about the proportions and effects of child labor, and show them simple steps they can take to combat it.
  2. The fight against child labor can only succeed if businesses abstain from employing children in the first place. You can do your part by identifying companies that violate that rule and starting a local or national campaign publicizing their transgressions.
  3. In many poverty-stricken regions, children don't even have access to affordable schooling, making it unlikely they will be able to get an education even if they are freed from forced labor. You can do your part by supporting organizations aiming to establish affordable education there.

Topics: UN Year