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Making progress against child labour worldwide and in Europe


In September 2013, the International Labour Organization published its latest report on child labour  as part of its report series aiming to estimate global child labour, four years after the previous, 2008 iteration. The estimates suggest that as many of 168 million children worldwide (11% of the world’s child population) are in child labour, and that 85 million are in dangerous work which endangers their health, moral development or safety. The report is structured into four parts which present main figures for the new estimate, before developing on detailed estimates, highlighting trends between 2000-2013 and suggesting future avenues.

An overview of global child labour

Despite reporting positive developments in child labour, namely that between 2000 and 2012, the number of child labourers declined by almost a third, the report remains cautious and warns that a world without child labour is still too far. Based on data on children aged 5-17 in employment, child labour and hazardous work, the ILO’s analysis indicates that child labour is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (21.4%), followed by Asia and the Pacific (9.3%), Latin America and the Caribbean (8.8%) and Middle East and North Africa (8.4%). It points out that about 1 in 5 children aged 5-17 in Sub-Saharan Africa are in child labour. The data also points to a gender imbalance, with about 100 million boys worldwide being in child labour compared to about 70 million girls; it is also noted that the fall in the number of girl child labourers between 2000 and 2012 was 40%, compared to 25% of boys.

A European perspective

Although the ILO report provides scarce data on child labour in high income countries, a recent statement by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in August 2013 indicates that child labour remains an issue in Europe. In his Human Rights Comment , Nils Mui┼żnieks highlights that owing to increasing unemployment rates, some families across Europe have had to send their children to work. Although data on Europe is scarce, UN research seems to suggest that in certain European countries, the proportion of children under 16 who are working ranges from 5% to as much as 29%. In some East-European countries, children work in domains such as construction, agriculture or small factories. The Commissioner also highlighted that Roma children are particularly at risk, as well as unaccompanied migrants.