The African continent has the world’s highest rate of child labour, with two in five children in sub-Saharan Africa engaged in some form of work, the United Nations Labour Organisation (ILO) said on Thursday.
Almost 50 million children in sub-Saharan Africa between the ages of five and 14 - or 26.4 percent of that group’s population - work, according to ‘The End of Child Labour: Within Reach’, an ILO report released on Thursday in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
"The picture in Africa is mixed. On the one hand, the proportion of children working went down from 28.8 percent to 26.4 percent, but the absolute number of children working in sub-Saharan Africa went up from 48 million to 49.3 million," said Yaw Ofosu, a child-labour specialist with ILO. "This shows that more still needs to be done."
A combination of high population growth, extreme poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic has hindered progress in the fight against child labour in Africa, Ofosu said. According to the report, 50,000 African children are engaged in commercial sex and pornography, and some 120,000 children under age 18 have been coerced into taking up arms as child soldiers, military porters, messengers, cooks or sex slaves.
Despite slow progress in Africa, global child labour declined in 2006, Ofosu said. The actual number of child labourers worldwide fell by 11 percent between 2000 and 2004, from 246 million to 218 million. In addition, the number of youngsters exposed to labour that put them in physical and mental danger fell by 26 percent, to 126 million.
"The decline is largely due to increased political will to tackle child labour as part of wider poverty-reduction strategies," said Ofosu. What is crucial is policies that help poor families send their kids to school.
Education and policy choices are key factors to reducing child labour." "The end of child labour is within reach. We think it is feasible to eliminate the worst forms of child labour over the next 10 years," said Michel Gozo, an ILO representative in Ethiopia and Djibouti.