World Day Against Child Labour

On World Day Against Child Labour, read RJC's Executive Director talk about this critical topic, read a special edition article by Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch, on the impact of COVID-19 on child labour, and look through some informative reports to learn more. 
Dear RJC members and key stakeholders,
This year’s World Day Against Child Labour focuses on action taken for the 2021 International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. It is the first World Day since the universal ratification of the ILO’s Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and takes place at time when the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse years of progress in tackling the problem.
As RJC we want to raise awareness on this issue and ask our members and industry to cascade this message and inspire all stakeholders to take actions in their operations and supply chain. We thank Jo Becker, who is the children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, for her article in this newsletter on Child labour and the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The number of children involved in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF
This report shares that globally, nine million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic. A simulation model shows this number could rise to 46 million if they don’t have access to critical social protection coverage.  Additional economic shocks and school closures caused by COVID-19 mean that children already in child labour may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, while many more may be forced into the worst forms of child labour due to job and income losses among vulnerable families.
Children in child labour are at risk of physical and mental harm. Child labour compromises children’s education, restricting their rights and limiting their future opportunities, and leads to vicious inter-generational cycles of poverty and child labour.
To reverse the upward trend in child labour, the ILO and UNICEF are calling for:
  • Adequate social protection for all, including universal child benefits.
  • Increased spending on free and good-quality schooling and getting all children back into school - including children who were out of school before COVID-19.
  • Promotion of decent work for adults, so families don’t have to resort to children helping to generate family income.
As part of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour lets redouble our efforts in the global fight against child labour by making concrete action pledges.
Iris Van der Veken, Executive Director
David Bouffard, Chair

Child labour and the COVID 19 Pandemic

A few years ago, the global effort to end child labor was showing remarkable results. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of children engaged in child labor worldwide declined by 94 million – a 38 percent drop. But the unprecedented economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, together with inadequate social safety nets and school closures affecting 1.4 billion children, is reversing this progress. Many children have been pushed into exploitative and dangerous child labor, affecting the supply chains of many companies
In early 2021, Human Rights Watch, together with local partners, interviewed 81 children in Ghana, Nepal, and Uganda to examine the rise in child labor and poverty during the pandemic. Virtually every child described a drop in family income due to the pandemic. Parents had lost jobs when businesses shut down, lost access to markets due to transportation restrictions, and lost customers due to economic slowdowns. Many of the children said their family struggled just to buy food, and that they went to work to help their families survive.
The children we interviewed worked in gold mines, brick kilns, carpet factories, stone quarries, fisheries, and in agriculture. Some worked as mechanics, rickshaw divers, or in construction, while others sold items on the street. Many described long hours and hazardous work.
“Solomon,” age 14, told us that his parents were farmers, but when pandemic-related restrictions were imposed in Ghana, they had difficulty selling their produce. After schools closed, he went to work at a gold mine to help support his family. He told us he was a “loco boy,” carrying heavy sacks of ore, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He said, “Carrying the load from the bottom of the pit to the top is hard work. I often feel pain in my body.”
In Ghana, most of the children we interviewed worked in gold mining, even though national law prohibits the work because it is hazardous for children. Most said they handled mercury to extract gold from the ore and seemed unaware that mercury is highly toxic and that such exposure can cause lifelong disabilities, including brain damage. Children also described exhaustion from crushing ore into smaller pieces with a hammer, and respiratory problems from breathing in dust particles from processing machines.
Once schools reopened, most of the children we interviewed returned, but continued to work. Some said that their work hours made it difficult to keep up with their studies, or that they attended school sporadically because of work demands. In other cases, like Solomon’s, children had not returned to schools after they reopened, because their families still needed their income, or because they needed to earn money for school expenses. UNICEF estimates that 24 million children who missed out on schooling during the pandemic will drop out for good.
2021 has been designated the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, and governments around the world have committed to end child labor by 2025 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. But without concerted action by both governments and the private sector, reaching that goal will be impossible.
Governments have obligations to guarantee children an adequate standard of living, fulfil their right to education, and protect them from child labor. The pandemic highlights governments’ responsibilities to rigorously monitor child labor and enforce child labor laws and provide children with accessible education and adequate social protection. Providing families with cash allowances, for example, can help them meet their basic needs without resorting to child labor.
Companies also have responsibilities, including rigorous human rights due diligence throughout their supply chains.  Human Rights Watch’s 2020 report on the jewelry industry highlighted areas of progress by companies in their approach to responsible sourcing in recent years, as well as remaining challenges. For example, we found that some companies had strengthened their codes of conduct, more rigorously screened their suppliers, or enhanced traceability of their gold or diamonds. But we also found that most companies still were not able to identify their mines of origin for gold or diamonds, fail to conduct thorough human rights assessments or mitigation measures regarding risks in their supply chain, and do not share adequate information about their efforts with the public.
Heightened rates of child labor due to the Covid-19 pandemic make responsible sourcing more important than ever. Companies should conduct new human rights assessments of their supply chains to identify human rights risks that may have increased during the pandemic, with special scrutiny for child labor. They should require their suppliers to assess risks and ensure that children working in mining are transitioned out of child labor into education or safe legal work above the minimum age. They should also report publicly about the human rights risks they identify and their response. Such efforts can enhance both companies’ pride in their products, and consumer confidence that their jewelry is not produced with child labor.
By Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch

Author: Jo Becker is the children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, and author of “I Must Work to Eat”: Covid-19, Poverty, and Child Labor in Ghana, Nepal, and Uganda.” Follow her on Twitter at @jobeckerhrw.

Photo: A 9-year old girl collects sand in search of gold at a mining site in Moroto District, Uganda. @2021 Angella Nabwowe Kasule for ISER

What is Child Labour? 

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that:
  • is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and/or
  • interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
Whether or not particular forms of “work” can be called “child labour” depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed and the objectives pursued by individual countries. The answer varies from country to country, as well as among sectors within countries.

Read more about what child labour is.

World Day Against Child Labour - 12 June 2021

This year’s World Day Against Child Labour focuses on action taken for the 2021 International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. It is the first World Day since the universal ratification of the ILO’s Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and takes place at time when the COVID-19 crisis threatens to reverse years of progress in tackling the problem.

In June for the World Day, the ILO and UNICEF have released new global estimates and trends on child labour (2016-2020), under the aegis of Alliance 8.7. The report will include an assessment of how the pace of progress towards ending child labour is likely to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented economic crisis that has accompanied it.

Read more and stay up to date

Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020, Trends and the Road Forward

Published for the first time jointly by the ILO and UNICEF, as co-custodians of Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, the report Child Labour: 2020 global estimates, trends and the road forward takes stock of where we stand in the global effort to end child labour.

What the report tells us is alarming. Global progress against child labour has stalled for the first time since we 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. These results constitute an important reality check in meeting the international commitment to end child labour by 2025.

Read the full report

High Level side event to mark the World Day Against Child Labour "Act Now: End Child Labour!"

Join the International Labour Organisation (ILO) at the 109th International Labour Conference. The World Day Against Child Labour 2021 will be marked by a high-level (virtual) side event during the Conference.

The first part of the event will focus on a conversation on the newly released ILO-UNICEF global estimates and trends on child labour. This will be followed by a discussion between high-level speakers and youth advocates on rising to the challenges, showcasing efforts to implement “Action Pledges” made for the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour 2021.

Watch the Recording

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. 

The UNCRC was adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989, entered into force 2 September 1990, in accordance with Article 49. 

To this date, 194 countries have ratified the Convention

Read the convention 

The Magnifier 


Today’s stakeholders expect that businesses perform on all sustainability measures – social, economic and environmental. But understanding where to begin – and what to prioritize – is becoming increasingly complex. Global Child Forum have tried to make this process easier for companies with the launch of a new digital tool 'The Magnifier'.

This free tool, features real world cases, gives your company the insights needed take action, avoid risks and uncover market opportunities in order to create a better world for our children.

Try out the tool here

COVID-19 and Child Labour: a Time of Crisis, a Time to Act 

The time to act is now. Everyone can make choices which include conscious measures to prevent and eliminate child labour. Where child labour has temporarily subsided due to movement restrictions, for example, opportunities may arise to prevent children from going back to work. Since potentially dramatic cuts in public spending can aggravate children’s vulnerability to harmful and exploitative forms of work, deliberate choices can be made to mitigate these risks, such as through extended social protection for poor families.

The long-term impacts of the pandemic and the implications for child labour as yet remain unknown. But based on literature and mounting evidence, some broad directions are emerging. The report builds on these to conclude with recommended actions.

Read the report

Ending child labour by 2025: A review of policies and programmes

The problem remains large… The latest Global Estimates indicate that 152 million children — 64 million girls and 88 million boys — are in child labour globally, accounting for almost one in 10 of all children worldwide. …and progress is slowing. While the number of children in child labour has declined by 94 million since 2000, the rate of reduction slowed by two-thirds in the most recent four-year period. 

The international community has made clear that the persistence of child labour in today’s world is unacceptable and, in the Sustainable Development Goals, has renewed its commitment to eliminating all forms of child labour by 2025. This report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) aims to contribute to such efforts by offering an analysis of trends and an evidence based discussion of policy solutions.

Read the report 

UNICEF on Child Labour 

Children may be driven into work for various reasons. Most often, child labour occurs when families face financial challenges or uncertainty – whether due to poverty, sudden illness of a caregiver, or job loss of a primary wage earner.

Key Facts:

  • The incidence of hazardous work in countries affected by armed conflicts is 50% higher than the global average.
  • nearly 1 in 10 children - some 152 million - are in child labour, almost half of whom work in hazardous conditions.
  • 30 million children live outside of their country of birth, increasing their risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation and other work. 
  • By 2025, an estimated 121 million children will be in child labour, with 52 million enduring hazardous work.

Learn more here

Ending child labour, forced labour and human trafficking in global supply chains

Global supply chains have the potential to generate growth, employment, skill development and technological transfer. Nevertheless, decent work deficits and human rights violations, including child labour, forced labour and human trafficking, have been linked to global supply chains. All actors operating in this context have a responsibility to ensure that these human rights violations and abuses are addressed.

This report presents the joint research findings and conclusions on child labour, forced labour and human trafficking linked to global supply chains from the ILO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), under the aegis of Alliance 8.7. It is the first attempt by international organizations to measure child labour, forced labour and human trafficking in global supply chains.

Read the report

Global Children's Rights Benchmark 

Global Child Forum has been benchmarking companies since 2014 on a range of issues related to how corporate’s address children’s rights. To date, they have benchmarked more than 2600 companies globally, with more to come. Their 2021 global benchmark is now underway scoring nearly 800 if the largest companies globally.

Global Child Forum has also become a World Benchmark Alliance Ally to expand the reach and impact of their flagship report, “The State of Children’s Rights and Business” — a corporate sector and children’s rights benchmark

The benchmark report, to be launched in Q4, will be accompanied by insights and key take-aways and present wide-ranging recommendation for action.

Read more here.

How large companies integrate human rights

A new Global Child Forum study, with support from the Boston Consulting Group, has examined the correlation between the results of the two latest Global Child Forum benchmark studies against parameters such as profitability, size/revenue and registered controversies around human rights. The goal of the study was to bring clarity to how respecting children’s rights relates to other areas of business activities.

Read the report here

L E A D  W I T H  P U R P O S E

Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) is the world’s leading standard-setting organisation for the global jewellery and watch industry.

Our members are helping to transform supply chains to be more responsible and sustainable – catalysing partnerships, underpinning trust in the global jewellery and watch industry and securing a future that can be treasured for generations to come.

To learn more visit:
Copyright © 2021 Responsible Jewellery Council, All rights reserved.

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