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AU, ILO and UNICEF mark the World Day against Child Labour in Africa

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ADDIS/ABIDJAN, 18 June 2021 – The African Union, International Labour Organization and UNICEF hosted a virtual continental event to mark the World Day against Child Labour in Africa, bringing together key actors who discussed strategies to address child labour, taking a holistic and systemic approach.

The June 18 event followed the release of the 2020 Global Child Labour Estimates report and related analysis and policy recommendations and capped a week of action to eliminate child labour.

According to the joint ILO-UNICEF report, one in five African children is engaged in child labour. A total of 92 million children – 40 million girls and 52 million boys – were in child labour in Africa at the beginning of 2020, representing more than 21.6% of all African children.

“This is not the Africa we want! This is not acceptable. This is not justifiable. It means that we, as parents, as citizens, as policy-makers, are failing in our responsibility of protecting our children,” said Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa.

Most children who work do so because their families depend on their wages, production or domestic work (including unpaid, often by girls) to make ends meet. Household economic shocks and the loss of a parent or caregiver can increase the chance that a child will go to work. A large proportion of young working children are excluded from school despite being in the compulsory education age group, 28% of working children are aged 5-14.

Africa faces a double challenge: eliminating child labour and ensuring decent work for young people of working age. The two are interlinked, as children who leave school early to work are less likely to find decent work later on.

"The number of children in child labour in Africa increased. During this international year, we have the opportunity to scale up efforts in implementing the African Union agenda 2063 and 2040 and save the continent from the current child rights violations," said H.E. Amira El Fadil, AU Commissioner for Social Affairs.

The African Union’s Ten-Year Plan of Action for the Elimination of Child Labour prioritises the fight against child labour in agriculture at the continental, regional and national levels. Specifically, it calls for the integration of child labour issues into the implementation processes of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), Africa’s policy framework for agricultural transformation.

“The COVID-19 crisis has served as an important reminder of the need for international cooperation and partnership in overcoming global challenges. This is as true for ending child labour as for other critical development priorities in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and African Union Agenda 2063,” Dr. Edward Addai, UNICEF Representative to the AU and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

Eliminating child labour is a task too big for any one party to solve alone. We must do this together, Dr Addai added.

The situation calls for gender-sensitive measures to ensure universal education at pre-primary, primary and secondary levels, to improve quality and learning outcomes, to reduce drop-out rates and to enrol out-of-school children, including working children.

Measures to prevent and respond to child labour during a crisis should contribute to strengthening social cohesion, resilience and peace, as well as existing government, economic and social structures.

Strengthening social protection is essential to reduce families’ vulnerability and dependence on child labour. These include unemployment protection, maternity/parental benefits, sick leave and disability benefits.

“The best form of social protection is through the provision of a decent work!” said Douglas Opio, Executive Director of the Federation of Uganda Employers.

The ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work calls for investing in people through a human-centred approach to the future of work. This means investing in jobs, skills and social protection, and actively advancing gender equality. It requires investing in labour market institutions so that wages are adequate, working hours are limited, and safety, health and fundamental rights at work are ensured.

“I commit the Office to work as one ILO to mainstream child labour issues into all relevant areas of work of the Abidjan Declaration implementation plan, in order to maximize our contribution to ending child labour in Africa. We will work closely with our tripartite constituents to do so,” said Ms Samuel-Olonjuwon.

For further information and to arrange print media interviews, please contact

African Union: Mr. Gamal Eldin Ahmed A. Karrar, Senior Communication Officer, African Union Commission, GamalK@africa-union.org

ILO: Ms. Aimee Manimani Nsimire, Communication Officer, nsimire@ilo.org

UNICEF: Derrick Oduck Ochuot, Communication Officer, dochuot@unicef.org