The United Nations labour agency warned in a new study that efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour are waning and called for a re-energized " global campaign to end the scourge.
The Global Report on Child Labour, released today, assessed progress made so far and highlighted the challenges that remain if the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by the target date of 2016 is to be achieved.
It noted a slowing down of the global pace of reduction " " with the number of child labourers worldwide declining from 222 million to 215 million, or 3 per cent, from 2004 to 2008.
Progress is uneven: neither fast enough nor comprehensive enough to reach the goals that we have set, " said Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
New and large-scale efforts are needed. The situation calls for a re-energized campaign against child labour. We must scale up action and move into a higher gear. "
The quadrennial report comes ahead of The Hague Global Child Labour Conference, to be held from 10 to 11 May in the Netherlands, which will consider lessons learned in the fight against the worst forms of child labour, as well as a road map " providing concrete steps towards achieving the 2016 target.
The report also expressed concern that the global economic crisis could further brake " progress toward the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016.
The economic downturn cannot become an excuse for diminished ambition and inaction. Instead it offers the opportunity to implement the policy measures that work for people, for recovery and for sustainable development, " said Mr. Somavia.
The report, which breaks down data by age, gender and region, showed that Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean continue to reduce child labour, while sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed an increase. Africa also has the highest incidence of children working, with one in four children engaged in child labour.
The scale of the problem in Africa is among the key remaining challenges in tackling child labour, according to Constance Thomas, Director of the ILO`s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).
Other challenges include a much-needed breakthrough in agriculture, where most child labourers work, and the need to address often hidden forms of child labour.
Most child labour is rooted in poverty. The way to tackle the problem is clear. We must ensure that all children have the chance of going to school, we need social protection systems that support vulnerable families " particularly at times of crisis " and we need to ensure that adults have a chance of decent work. These measures, combined with effective enforcement of laws that protect children, provide the way forward, " said Ms. Thomas.