Young children attending class.
The eradication of child labour requires a systemic approach and effective policies to strengthen social protection systems, education, and decent work opportunities for parents and caregivers to address the conditions that drive child labour.
Photo:Marcel Crozet / ILO

2022 Theme: "Universal Social Protection to End Child Labour"

The 2022 theme of the world day calls for increased investment in social protection systems and schemes to establish solid social protection floors and protect children from child labour.

While significant progress has been made in reducing child labour over the last two decades, progress has slowed over time, and it has even stalled during the period 2016-2020. Today, 160 million children still engaged in child labour – some as young as 5.

Government social protection systems are essential to fight poverty and vulnerability, and eradicate and prevent child labour. Social protection is both a human right and a potent policy tool to prevent families from resorting to child labour in times of crisis. However, as of 2020 and before the COVID-19 crisis took hold, only 46.9 per cent of the global population were effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit while the remaining 53.1 per cent – as many as 4.1 billion people – were left wholly unprotected. Coverage for children is even lower. Nearly three quarters of children, 1.5 billion, lacked social protection.

Significant progress towards ending child labour requires increased investment in universal social protection systems, as part of an integrated and comprehensive approach to tackle the problem.

Join us and add your voice to the worldwide movement against child labour.

#EndChildLabour

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High-level Discussion

The discussion will focus on the ILO/UNICEF report on social protection and child labour. Released at the 5th Global Conference on Child Labour in May, the report presents evidence from a number of studies conducted since 2010 that show how social protection - by helping families cope with economic or health shocks - reduces child labour and facilitates schooling.

Prevalence of child labour

Children around the world are routinely engaged in paid and unpaid forms of work that are not harmful to them. However, they are classified as child labourers when they are either too young to work, or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development. In the least developed countries, slightly more than one in four children (ages 5 to 17) are engaged in labour that is considered detrimental to their health and development.

Africa ranks highest among regions both in the percentage of children in child labour — one-fifth — and the absolute number of children in child labour — 72 million. Asia and the Pacific ranks second highest in both these measures — 7% of all children and 62 million in absolute terms are in child labour in this region.

The Africa and the Asia and the Pacific regions together account for almost nine out of every ten children in child labour worldwide. The remaining child labour population is divided among the Americas (11 million), Europe and Central Asia (6 million), and the Arab States (1 million). In terms of incidence, 5% of children are in child labour in the Americas, 4% in Europe and Central Asia, and 3% in the Arab States.

While the percentage of children in child labour is highest in low-income countries, their numbers are actually greater in middle-income countries. 9% all children in lower-middle-income countries, and 7% of all children in upper-middle-income countries, are in child labour. Statistics on the absolute number of children in child labour in each national income grouping indicate that 84 million children in child labour, accounting for 56% of all those in child labour, actually live in middle-income countries, and an additional 2 million live in high-income countries.

 

Social protection reduces family poverty and vulnerability, thereby diminishing key drivers of child labour, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Find out more

Did you know?

  • At the beginning of 2020, 1 in 10 children aged 5 and over were involved in child labour worldwide – equating to an estimated 160 million children, or 63 million girls and 97 million boys.
  • Globally, significant progress has been made in reducing child labour in the past two decades (ILO and UNICEF 2021). The number of children in child labour declined by 85.5 million between 2000 and 2020, from 16% to 9.6%.
  • Only 26.4% of children worldwide receive social protection cash benefits.
  • At the global level, national expenditure on social protection for children amounts to only 1.1% of GDP. In Africa, the region with the largest share of children in the population, the highest prevalence of child labour and the greatest need for social protection, an equivalent of 0.4% of GDP is spent on social protection for children.
  • It is estimated that without mitigation strategies, the number of children in child labour could rise by 8.9 million by the end of 2022, due to higher poverty and increased vulnerability.

Source: 52 Key Messages flyer from the ILO campaign materials

Week of Action against Child Labour

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This year’s World Day Against Child Labour will be celebrated with a "Week of Action against Child Labour", marked from 3-12 June 2022. Throughout this special week, events and activities around the world will provide an opportunity to showcase progress on the elimination of child labour.

Children raise their hands in a classroom

Every child has the right to health, education and protection, and every society has a stake in expanding children’s opportunities in life. Yet, around the world, millions of children are denied a fair chance for no reason other than the country, gender or circumstances into which they are born.

Find out more in "Global Issues: Children"

Students in a rural area of Colombia

In July 2019, the General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution declaring 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, and has asked the International Labour Organization to take the lead in its implementation. The international year will be an ideal opportunity to reinvigorate efforts to achieve SDG Target 8.7 to end all forms of child labour by 2025.

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.