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Every Child Counts: New Global Estimates on Child Labour

This paper provides a basis for advocacy and further research. This project provides an important input to two major ILO activities: (1) drafting of the 2002 global report on child labour and (2) IPEC research on the economic costs and benefits of the elimination of child labour. It presents estimates on the magnitude and distribution of working children. Children at work in economic activity. There were some 211 million children ages 5 to 14 at work in economic activity in the world in 2000. This accounts for a little less than one fifth of all children in this age group. About 73 million working children are less than 10 years old. The total economically active child population 5-17 years old is estimated at 352 million children. In both the 5-9 and 10-14 year age brackets, boys and girls are equally likely to be engaged in economic activity. Only as boys and girls grow older do we observe a widening gap, with more boys working than girls. Regional distribution. The Asian-Pacific region harbors the largest number of child workers in the 5-14 age category, 127.3 million in total. It is followed by Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean with 48 million and 17.4 million, respectively. Developed economies and transition economies have the lowest absolute numbers of child workers. Seen in relative terms, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest proportion of working children. The estimates show that almost one child in three below the age of 15 is economically active in the region. The child-work ratios in other major world regions are all below 20 percent. In Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean, the incidence is 19 and 16 percent, respectively. In the Middle East and North Africa, it is 15 percent. Child Labour. Child labour is a narrower concept than “economically active children,” excluding all those children 12 years and older who are working only a few hours a week in permitted light work and those 15 years and above whose work is not classified as “hazardous”. It is estimated that there were about 186 million child labourers below the age of 15 in the world in 2000. About 110 million were below the age of 12. Among children in the larger age group 5-17 there were approximately 246 million children in child labour. On average, more boys tend to be exposed to child labour than girls, both in absolute as well as in relative terms. Children in unconditional worst forms of child labour. In addition to the number of children in hazardous work, it is estimated that there were about 8.4 million children involved in other worst forms of child labour as defined in ILO Convention No.182, Art. 3. This includes trafficking (1.2 million); forced and bonded labour (5.7 million); armed conflict (0.3 million); prostitution and pornography (1.8 million); and illicit activities (0.6 million).


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