The top officials of the UN and International Labor Organization (ILO) in Turkey on Friday called on all stakeholders to work to end child labor through individual and corporate pledges.

“Everyone can make a difference,” UN Resident Coordinator in Turkey Alvaro Rodriguez and ILO Turkey Director Numan Ozcan said in a statement.

Some 152 million children across the world are still in child labor, including 72 million in hazardous work, according to the statement.

Between 2000 and 2016, child labor decreased nearly 40% globally, it said.

Citing how the UN General Assembly in 2019 declared 2021 the Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, the statement said the resolution highlighted the member states’ commitments “to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate the worst forms of child labor, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms.”

“Naturally, this year, more than ever, we need to scale up our actions further to focus attention on the millions of girls and boys still sweating in the fields and factories,” it said.

Touting the rights of children to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work likely to interfere with their education or health, the statement said substantial progress has been achieved in recent years, thanks largely to intense advocacy and national mobilization backed by legislative and practical action.

Pandemic upended progress

Rodrigues and Ozcan warned that the progress of the last two decades was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, as it worsened economic insecurity, profoundly disrupted supply chains, and halted manufacturing.

“When these and other factors result in losses in household income, expectations that children contribute financially can intensify,” the statement said.

More children could be forced into exploitative and hazardous jobs, it warned.

Noting that gender inequalities may grow more acute within families, with girls expected to perform additional household chores and agricultural work, it stressed that temporary school closures may exacerbate these tendencies.

Rodrigues and Ozcan urged national and local government institutions to take measures to ensure full compliance with national legislation to combat child labor.

Employers and businesses can adopt business principles upholding children’s rights and commit to supplying chains free of child labor, the statement suggested.

They urged individuals to make personal choices to consume responsibly, raise funds, and demand that their governments accelerate action.

“Working together, individuals and institutions have the power to transform the International Year into a sustained global movement for children. Now is the moment to act, inspire and scale up!” it added.

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