The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director-General, Mr. Guy Ryder has called for urgent global action to end common dangers associated with child labour, as the agency marked its World Day against Child Labour.
In a message on June 12, he said, "Many child labourers suffer lifelong physical and psychological consequences. Their very lives can be at risk. These children are toiling in mines and fields, factories and homes, exposed to pesticides and other toxic substances, carrying heavy loads or working long hours."
About 73 million children are involved in doing hazardous work - almost half of the 152 million children aged 5 to 17 across the world, who are still forced into child labour, the agency noted in a release issued.
The World Day, which was first marked under the auspices of the ILO in 2002, draws attention to the global extent of child labour and the efforts needed to eliminate it.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour.
Although the overall number of children in hazardous work has decreased in recent years, progress has been limited to older children.
Between 2012 and 2016, according to ILO, the number of children aged 5 to 11, doing dangerous work in contravention international treaties, increased. "This is unacceptable", Ryder said.
Nearly three out of every four children made to work, are in the agriculture sector, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
After years of steady decline, child labour on farms and in the fields has started to rise again, driven in part by an increase in conflicts and climate-induced disasters.
This worrisome trend, not only threatens the wellbeing of millions of children, but also undermines efforts to end global hunger and poverty, FAO warned.
"Children who work long hours are likely to continue to swell the ranks of the hungry and poor", said FAO Deputy Director-General Daniel Gustafson. "As their families depend on their work, this deprives the children of the opportunity to go to school, which in turn prevents them from getting decent jobs and income in the future".
ILO's conventions on child labour, namely the Minimum Age Convention of 1973 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention of 1999, require governments to establish a national list of hazardous work, prohibited for children.
These treaties have been ratified by 171 and 181 ILO member States respectively, reflecting a near global commitment to end child labour in all its forms.
In a related development, the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has condemned the use of children as labourers by employers of labour and warned that his administration would not accept any form of exploitation of children in the state.
Obaseki gave the warning on the occasion of the World Day against Child Labour, marked by the United Nations each year.
While acknowledging the influx of companies into the state, with the state government's reinvigorated efforts at creating the enabling environment for businesses to thrive, the governor maintained that his administration would not condone obnoxious labour practices such as the recruitment of children to work.
"We are committed to equipping our children with quality education for a prosperous future. We have robust laws and policies that guarantee the rights of children in the state and will activate these laws and policies in the event that children are being exploited or abused anywhere in the state," he said.
The governor urged Edo people and residents to report any case of exploitation of children to the law enforcement agencies for prosecution as the state government has sensitised the enforcement agencies to treat such cases with dispatch.
He further warned that forced labour and human trafficking have no place in the emerging Edo State, and advised parents, guardians and caregivers to be alive to their responsibilities of educating their children.
"The ILO in 2002 launched the day to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year in June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organisations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them," the UN body said.