Remarks by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell at the World Day Against Child Labor high-level side event – Global

As prepared for delivery

NEW YORK, June 3, 2022 – “The current child labor situation is concerning.

Children have been hardest hit by the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.

“We estimate that an additional 100 million children have fallen into poverty since the start of the pandemic. As the rate of child poverty increases, the risk of child labor also increases.

“For the first time since 2000, we are seeing the number of working children increase to nearly one in ten children worldwide.

“Almost half of these children are engaged in hazardous work that can cause physical and emotional harm.

“An alarming number of working children are extremely young. There were 16.8 million more children aged 5 to 11 in child labor in 2020 than in 2016.

“The consequences of child labor on children are devastating – with ripple effects that can last a lifetime.

“Child labor violates every child’s right to be a child and to grow up free from exploitation, abuse and violence.

“It also undermines children’s education and limits their future opportunities, exacerbating cycles of poverty.

“We know that the best way to prevent child labor is to invest in social protection programs that help families overcome crises.

“The joint ILO/UNICEF report we are discussing today presents the latest research on the power of social protection to help prevent child labor – and clearly shows the way forward.

“For most families facing economic crisis and instability, putting a child to work is a last resort – a choice only made when there is no other way to survive.

“These families need direct support to help them weather the storms without putting their children to work.

“Social protection programs are key to reducing the vulnerabilities that make child labor the only option.

“The global response to COVID has highlighted how effective family and family benefits are – and how quickly they can be scaled up.

“More than 3,000 social protection programs are being expanded in almost every country in the world, every country in the world.

“But the challenge remains daunting: only 1 in 4 children have access to a child and family allowance. And while child and family allowances are essential, they are only part of the solution. To support children and families , we need to take an integrated approach.

“For example, when families receive cash benefits, they can also receive information about the importance of keeping children in school and out of work – and allowing children who have worked to return to school.

“We also need to build a strong child protection workforce that can provide direct support to children and families.

“Finally, as the Director-General notes, we must close the funding gap. This means mobilizing – and prioritizing – domestic resources towards social protection, as well as increased development assistance to tackle child labor in all its forms.

“We must never accept child labor as inevitable.

“We have the power to change it – and the best way to mark World Day Against Child Labor is to use that power.

“We are extremely fortunate to be working closely with our colleagues at the ILO and other partners to do all we can to tackle child labour.

“I look forward to our work together to ensure that every child, everywhere has a childhood, free of child labour.”

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