74 million children exposed to hazardous labour: ILO

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Kolkata, Jun 12: As many as 165 million children between the age group of 5-14 years are presently engaged in various occupations, 74 million of whom are exposed to extremely hazardous processes in manufacturing, mining and construction industries, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Addressing a press conference on the eve of the World Day against Child Labour here on Wednesday, state programme manager of 'Save the Children', an NGO, Manabendra Nath Ray said, ''The ILO launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 as a platform for highlighting the global extent of child labour, linking governments', employers' and workers' organisations, as well as civil society and others, such as schools and the media, in the campaign against child labour, through advocacy and solidarity.''

According to ILO estimates, the most recent international data on education enrolment shows that 72 million children of primary school age are not enrolled in school.

The statistics further indicated that the proportion of children engaged in economic activities in sub-Saharan Africa is the highest in any region in the world - 26 per cent - representing close to 50 million children.

However, the largest absolute numbers of working children are in the Asia Pacific region, where 122 million children, aged 5-14 years, are working.

The ILO stated that Latin America and the Caribbean had progressed the most with just five per cent of children aged 5-14 now engaged in work.

The ILO is pursuing a Global Action Plan to tackle child labour which calls for adoption of time-bound targets to meet the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016 and identifies various means by which the ILO can support this process, Mr Nath Ray stated.

Speaking on the extent of the child labour problem in India, he said, ''According to the 2001 Census, 12.8 million children aged between five and 14 years continue to work in various occupations.

However, UNICEF figures show that 14 per cent, that is approximately 29 million children, are working as child labourers.

''West Bengal, according to the 2001 Census, has 90,000 child labourers engaged in hazardous occupations. However, research conducted by Save the Children estimates 50,000 child domestic workers in Kolkata alone,'' he added.

He informed that Save the Children and its partner agencies have been working extensively on the issue of child labour and trafficking, in particular child domestic work, brick kiln workers and children engaged in beedi-making in West Bengal since 2003 in close collaboration with the Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare, Government of West Bengal, and with the active support from Panchayati Raj Institutions, and rescued and rehabilitated more than 2,309 children through its programme initiatives.

''About 350 child domestic workers have been provided with vocational education and 6,500 mainstreamed into formal schools between 2005-08. Besides, strong anti-trafficking committees have been set up in 52 villages in this region now and 46 villages do not have children going out for domestic work,'' he added.

UNI

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