United Nations, May 5: Child labour, especially in its worst forms, on the in decline for the first time across the globe, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said in a report.
Despite this welcome progress, the fight against the scourge is still a ''daunting challenge'' and much remains to be done, warns ILO, the UN specialised agency, in a report.
Titled ''The end of child labour: Within reach,'' the report points out that if the current pace of the decline were to be maintained and the global momentum to stop child labour continued, child labour could feasibly be eliminated, in most of its worst forms, in 10 years.
''The fight against child labour in the world continues to be a daunting challenge, but this Global Report provides evidence that a breakthrough could be in the making,'' ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said in a preface to the 74-page document.
The new report says the actual number of child labourers worldwide fell by 11 per cent between 2000 and 2004, from 246 million to 218 million, also highlighting that the number of children and youth aged 5 to 17 trapped in hazardous work decreased by 26 per cent, dropping to 126 million in 2004 from 171 million in the previous estimate.
It attributed the reduction in child labour to increased political will and awareness and also concrete action, particularly in the field of poverty reduction and mass education that has led to a ''worldwide movement against child labour.'' Through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), the ILO assists in building national capacity to deal with the problem and providing policy advice. In addition, through direct action, the Programme over the past decade has reached some 5 million children.
However, despite the cautious optimism of the new report, it also underlines the challenges ahead and Maria Arteta, ILO's Coordinator for Child Labour Programmes in Latin America acknowledged that progress worldwide in dealing with child labour had been uneven.
''Latin America and the Caribbean have made the biggest progress, and in Asia and the Pacific the absolute number of economically active children has also declined. In Africa, there is a decline in the incidence of child labour."
''As the report states, economic growth alone will not end child labour. Countries need to make the right policy choices, choices that invest in education and invest in decreasing inequity,'' she said.
Hightlighting the roles of government in fighting child labour Ms Arteta said, 'There's a lot to be done, there are still over 200 million children working, but we now know that if we focus on reducing inequity, mass education and if we work together - donors, the international community, but more important the governments themselves - we can make a difference.''