Manila, Philippines – There are 168 million child laborers all over the world, with most of them in the Asia Pacific region, the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO) said yesterday.

ILO Director General Guy Ryder said the number of child laborers has dropped by around one-third since 2,000 but 168 million is still “a very large number.”

“If all child workers were grouped in a single country, this would be the world’s eighth most populous country, more populous than Bangladesh or Russia,” he said.

Ryder said Asia Pacific region has the most child workers at 78 million while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence of child labor at 21 million.

Based on ILO estimates, there are 85 million five to 17 year olds that are working and that their work endangers their health, safety and development.

“The vast majority work in agriculture but they are present in other sectors too, working in mines, being trafficked or abused in the sex trade,  made to beg, exploited in domestic work,  forced to join militias or armies,” Ryder said.

“Child labor is a global problem that needs a response from all sides. This means measures to help reduce poverty, improve education, enforce laws, improve employment prospects for adults and ensure there are no benefits in employing children under working age,” he said.

Ryder said that with the ongoing third Global Conference on Child Labor in Brazil, there is “a unique opportunity to show what determined international effort and national political will can achieve.”

source: mb