Number of children in child labour rises to 160 million - new report from ILO and UNICEF shows alarming trends

New York, 10 June 2021 - For the first time in twenty years the number of children in child labour increased. At the beginning of 2020 a total of 160 million children-63 million girls and 97 million boys-were in child labour globally, accounting for almost 1 in 10 of all children worldwide. The alarming estimates were anounced in a joint report by ILO and UNICEF iahead of the World Day against Child Labour, on 12 June.

The report "Child Labour, global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward" shows that global progress against child labour has stalled for the first time since the International Labour Organization began producing global estimates two decades ago.

In addition, without urgent mitigation measures, the COVID-19 crisis is likely to push millions more children into child labour.

"Freedom from violence is crucial to prevent child labour and also to promote effective strategies for the recovery and reintegration of child victims, and for preventing their return to situations of exploitation. Yet, child labour continues to compromise the fundamental rights of over 160 million children worldwide. Nearly half of them-seventy million- are trapped in hazardous forms of child labour, often enduring heavy work and also suffering the traumatic impact of violence.  It is urgent to outlaw the worst forms of child labour! " said SRSG Najt Maalla M'jid.

The report reveals that  the percentage of children in child labour remained unchanged in the past four years while the absolute number of children in child labour increased by over 8 million. Similarly, the percentage of children in hazardous work was almost unchanged but rose in absolute terms by 6.5 million children to a staggering total of seventy-nine million children. This number accounts for nearly half of all those in child labour – involved in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety and moral development.

Child labour is much more common in rural areas. There are 122.7 million rural children in child labour compared to 37.3 million urban children. The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (13.9 per cent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (4.7 per cent).

In addition most child labour – for boys and girls alike – continues to occur in agriculture. Seventy per cent of all children in child labour, 112 million children in total, are in agriculture. Many are younger children, underscoring agriculture as an entry point to child labour. Over three quarters of all children aged 5 to 11 in child labour work in agriculture. • The largest share of child labour takes place within families.

The COVID-19 crisis threatens to further erode global progress against child labour unless urgent mitigation measures are taken. New analysis suggests a further 8.9 million children will be in child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of rising poverty driven by the pandemic.

The report demonstrates the urgency to put action to end child labour back on track, in line with global commitments and goals.

More information