By Martina Fuchs
GENEVA, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- The International Labour Organization (ILO), a Geneva-based UN agency, said on Friday that child labour has decreased by 38 percent in the last decade but warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has considerably worsened the situation with 152 million children still affected.
In a press release, the ILO wrote that the COVID-19 crisis has brought additional poverty to these already vulnerable populations and may reverse years of progress in the fight against child labour.
"School closures have aggravated the situation and many millions of children are working to contribute to the family income. The pandemic has also made women, men and children more vulnerable to exploitation," the organization said.
ILO data showed that progress across regions is uneven. Almost half of child labour happens in Africa (72 million children), followed by Asia and the Pacific (62 million).
Meanwhile, 70 percent of children in child labour work in agriculture, mainly in subsistence and commercial farming and livestock herding, the report said. Almost half of all these children work in occupations or situations considered hazardous for their health and lives.
The ILO said that "joint and decisive action could reverse this trend."
Together with other partners, ILO launched the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour in 2021 in a bid to encourage legislative and practical actions to eradicate child labour worldwide.
"There is no place for child labour in society. It robs children of their future and keeps families in poverty," ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in the statement.
"This International Year is an opportunity for governments to step up and achieve Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals by taking concrete actions to eliminate child labour for good. With COVID-19 threatening to reverse years of progress, we need to deliver on promises now more than ever," he added.
The International Year was unanimously adopted in a UN General Assembly resolution in 2019. The ILO said that a main aim of the year is to urge governments to do what is necessary to achieve Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Target 8.7 asks members states to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 to end child labour in all its forms.
The ILO said that a number of events will be held throughout the year to raise awareness of the problem that affects one in 10 children.