Girl vendor Pakistan ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images 

Ending the Business of Child Labor

Advocates fighting to eradicate child labor had once hoped that globalization would help. But recent evidence shows that little progress has been made, suggesting that in addition to strong legal frameworks, robust accountability mechanisms are needed to guarantee that child labor is not used in supply chains.

NEW DELHI – In October 1997, when global leaders gathered in Oslo to strategize how to end child labor, we brought a huge ambition and a deep commitment to change. Through improved collaboration and planning, we sought to protect children from exploitation, and to develop “new strategies to eliminate child labor at the national, regional, and international levels.”

Now, 20 years later, it is time to ask: how have we done?

Poorly. Since that first meeting, the world has not even halved the number of children in the workforce. In the last five years, the international community has managed to reduce the number of employed children by just 16 million, the slowest pace of reduction in decades. Of the 152 million children working today, some 73 million are doing jobs considered hazardous. Even “safe” child labor affects victims’ physical and physiological wellbeing long into adulthood.  

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