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Tuesday, May 09, 2006 

Child Labor Declining Most Quickly in Latin America, Caribbean

New U.N. report says decrease part of worldwide decline in child labor

Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced the greatest decline in child labor over the last four years of any region in the world, according to a new U.N. report.

In a May 4 statement, the U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) said the decline is part of an overall global decrease in child labor.

"The end of child labor is within our reach," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said on the release of the report. "Though the fight against child labor remains a daunting challenge, we are on the right track. We can end its worst forms in a decade, while not losing sight of the ultimate goal of ending all child labor."

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the number of children at work has fallen by two-thirds from 2000 to 2004, with just 5 percent of children now engaged in work, according to the ILO report.

The report presents Brazil as an example of how countries can move forward in eliminating child labor. Brazilian children working in the 5 to 9 age group fell by 61 percent from 1992 to 2004, while among a larger 10 to 17 age group the rate fell by 36 percent during the same period.
Another country with a significant decline in child labor is Mexico, according to the report, The End of Child Labor: Within Reach.

Because half of the children in Latin America live in either Mexico or Brazil, "these reductions are very important and testify to the fact that the overall decline is a real trend," the report said.

The ILO said child labor, especially in its worst forms, is in decline for the first time worldwide. If the current pace of the decline was maintained and the global momentum to stop child labor continued, the ILO said it believes child labor "could feasibly be eliminated, in most of its worst forms, in 10 years."

Somavia said that in 21st century, "no child should be brutalized by exploitation or be placed in hazardous work. No child should be denied access to education. No child should have to slave for his or her survival."

The new report says the actual number of child laborers worldwide fell by 11 percent between 2000 and 2004, from 246 million to 218 million.

The number of children and youth aged 5 to 17 trapped in hazardous work decreased by 26 percent between 2000 and 2004, to reach 126 million in 2004 as opposed to 171 million in a previous estimate. Among younger child laborers aged 5 to 14, this drop was even more pronounced at 33 percent.

The report attributed the reduction in child labor to increased awareness of the problem, and the political will to take concrete action to stop the abuse. Such action includes working for poverty reduction and providing for mass education that has led to a "worldwide movement against child labor."

Despite the progress made in the fight against child labor, the report also highlights important challenges, particularly in agriculture, where seven out of 10 child laborers work. Another challenge is the effect of HIV/AIDS on child labor.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest proportion of children engaged in economic activities of any region in the world. According to the report, the sub-Saharan's convergence of high population growth, grinding poverty and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS has hindered progress in the fight against child labor. (See AIDS in Africa.)

The U.S. State Department said in a July 2005 fact sheet that most international organizations and national laws indicate that children legally may engage in light work, but the worst forms of child labor are being targeted for eradication by nations across the globe. The sale and trafficking of children and their entrapment in bonded and forced labor are particularly hazardous types of child labor.

According to the fact sheet, forced conscription into armed conflict is another brutal practice affecting children, as armed militias recruit some children by kidnapping, threats and promise of survival in war-ravaged areas. The fact sheet is available on the State Department Web site.

Source: U.S. Department of State


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