Child labor shrinks around the world, but remains worrying

Children cut pieces of coal in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on April 28, 2018.
Children cut pieces of coal in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on April 28, 2018. (NOORULLAH SHIRZADA / AFP)

The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, landed a few days ago in defense of child labor, while the law prohibits work under 16 years in Brazil. The opportunity to take stock of child labor in the world, which retreats but resists. There are 152 million children at work, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 168 million according to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef). In both cases, we are around 10% of children aged 5 to 17 who would be at work, regularly or occasionally.

According to the ILO, the situation is improving. The number of children exploited would have decreased by 94 million in ten years. But statements like that of Jair Bolsonaro show that the road is long. The Brazilian president boasted that he worked on the farm at 9 or 10 years old. "When a 9- or 10-year-old is working somewhere, there are plenty of people out there who denounce child labor, he said, but if he is smoking crack, nobody says anything. " According to the Brazilian statistics institute, 2.5 million miners work in Brazil.

It is proportionally in Africa that the situation is the most worrying. In Côte d'Ivoire, for example, one-third of children aged six to nine would work for the cocoa harvest. In Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso, cocoa plantations also employ children to clear the land, apply phytosanitary treatments or open cocoa pods. In Burkina Faso, some children under eight work in gold mines. And most recently Samsung has been pinned to provide cobalt from Congolese mines that exploit children. Also in Africa, in Cairo, it is estimated that 180,000 children live from garbage collection and sorting. On the African continent, just under one in five children would be at work.

On the other hand, it is in Asia that they are the most numerous, but one sees phenomena to rise like for example the "children of work" in Iran. The sharp deterioration of the economic situation has pushed 1.7 million miners into workshops and fields to supplement their families' incomes.

Closer to home, the hazelnut harvest in Turkey – the country is the world's largest producer – employs children. Portugal would count 300 000 out-of-school children, according to the NGO Plan International. They would be found in the building, agriculture and the shoe industry.

Finally, in Bolivia, the work of children under ten was made legal in 2014, before being challenged last year by the Constitutional Council. According to several estimates, a quarter of children work to supplement family income.


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