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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Child labour 'fuels commodity trade'
Indian children making bangles
Most child workers are found in Asia
A high proportion of globally-traded commodity crops such as cocoa, coffee and tea are produced by child workers, according to a new United Nations (UN) report.

Indian children caring for a baby
Many child workers lack any form of legal redress
"Child labour often assumes serious proportions in commercial agriculture associated with global markets for cocoa, coffee, cotton, rubber, sisal, tea and other commodities," the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) said.

Particularly high numbers of children work in agriculture, fishing, hunting and forestry, the ILO said.

"Studies in Brazil, Kenya and Mexico have shown that children under 15 make up between 25% and 30% of the total labour force in the production of various commodities," the ILO report said.


Globally, one child in eight is at risk because they carry out work that could cause them physical or mental harm, the UN agency said.

The effective abolition of child labour is one of the most urgent challenges of our time and should be a universal goal

Juan Somavia
International Labour Organisation
About 246 million children worldwide are involved in unacceptable forms of child labour, the ILO said

More than two thirds of them carry out hazardous work such as mining, fishing and construction, and most of these children are below the age of 15.

And about 8.4 million children are forced into the worst forms of child labour including slavery, prostitution and pornography, or are forced to fight as child soldiers.

Law enforcement

Many of these children lack any form of legal redress since they often work in the informal economy, which operates beyond the reach of labour laws.

"Despite the increasing commitment by governments and their partners to tackle child labour worldwide, it remains a problem on a massive scale," said ILO director-general Juan Somavia.

"The effective abolition of child labour is one of the most urgent challenges of our time, and should be a universal goal," Mr Somavia said.

Asia and Africa

The Asian-Pacific region accounts for 60% of all working children, with a further 23% of them working in sub-Saharan Africa.

Children at school in India
Lack of schools is seen as a cause of child labour
Only 1% work in developed countries.

Poverty is a major factor in child labour, but the ILO report also blamed discrimination, and a lack of educational opportunities, as well as a range of other factors.

"A wide range of crises - including natural disasters, sharp economic downturns, the HIV/Aids pandemic and armed conflicts - increasingly draws the young into debilitating child labour," the ILO said.

The BBC's Nick Hawton
"It happens in most parts of the world"
See also:

06 May 02 | South Asia
India 'losing' child-labour battle
30 Apr 02 | Business
Grounds for a coffee revolution?
24 Apr 02 | Education
Child labour crackdown
18 Dec 01 | Business
World Bank backs commodity hedging
02 Oct 01 | Business
US to act on cocoa slavery
24 Sep 01 | Africa
Child slaves returned to Togo
06 Jun 01 | Africa
Child slavery arrest in Lagos
04 May 01 | Americas
Amish seek child labour exemption
20 Mar 01 | South Asia
Pakistan signs child labour deal
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