Elimination of child labour by 2025 potentially harmful

Wouter Vandenhole of the Law and Development Research Group, together with  over 100 experts (academics, practitioners, and working children themselves), has signed an open letter calling for more evidence based approaches to child labour, instead of pursuing this highly unrealistic and potentially harmful global goal.

The UN has declared 2021 the International Year for the Elimination of Child labour in direct support of Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which stipulates that child labour in all its forms is to be eliminated by 2025.

Following the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) own global estimates on child labour, even in a pre-COVID world this goal was entirely unrealistic. Currently, there is a great danger that working children’s precarious situations can be further damaged by well-intentioned, but ineffective and potentially counterproductive pre-COVID-19 norms. Removing children from work is no help if this drives them deeper into the famine and broken lives that the work was undertaken to mitigate.

Intervention should consider well-being holistically: it must attend to the overall well-being and development of the children – physical, mental, social and spiritual – as stipulated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC; articles 17, 23, 27, 32).

The experts therefore call on the UN, UNICEF, and the UNCRC Committee as the primary overseers of the UNCRC, along with the ILO, to facilitate a more inclusive dialogue among governments, UN agencies, donors, NGOs, researchers, and working children themselves.

Link to open letter:


For more information, please contact one of the initiators: Prof. Michael Bourdillon, University of Zimbabwe (michaelbourdillon@gmail.com); Dr. Edward van Daalen, McGill University (edwardvandaalen@gmail.com); Mr. Richard Carothers, Children and Work Research Network (richardgcarothers@gmail.com)

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