More than 200 million children around the world work, often full-time, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). To bring attention to the worst forms of child labour and to encourage international cooperation on the issue, the ILO in 2002 declared June 12 as the World Day Against Child Labour. The message of today is clear: children everywhere have the right to safety, security, and freedom from violence.
The term child labour doesn't refer to all work done by children; according to the ILO, it is "defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development". This includes children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards, and being left to fend for themselves on the streets. The current priority of the ILO is eliminating the worst forms of child labour: slavery and human trafficking, pornography, drug trafficking, and any work that is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
In 2010, the ILO's Governing Body endorsed the 'Roadmap for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016'. The organization says there is still much more work to be done: estimates released June 1 show that at least 5 million children are caught in forced labour, which includes conditions such as commercial sexual exploitation and debt bondage - a form of modern day slavery in which a child is used as collateral against a loan. A new report called 'Tackling child labour: From commitment to action' also found that many states that have signed on to fight child labour have not yet put their commitments into practice, especially in informal economies.
In Canada, Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda released a statement to mark the World Day Against Child Labour, which included a message of support for the goals of the day: "Canada is a strong advocate for the protection of children. Canada's commitment to poverty reduction includes improving the status of children and youth in each country". The Canadian International Development Agency has also undertaken several projects over the last decade to help protect child labourers around the world - you can read about them here.
The ILO released this video about child slave labourers today, explaining the 2016 goal and examining how much remains to be done. Check it out below: