Number of children in child labor rises to 160 million — first increase in 2 decades

The number of children in child labor has risen to 160 million globally, an uptick of 8.4 million over the past four years, according to a report released Wednesday by the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Why it matters: The report cautions that “global progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years, reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016.”

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free

By the numbers: 63 million girls and 97 million boys were in child labour at the start of 2020, accounting for roughly 1 in 10 children worldwide. Boys were more likely to work than girls across all age groups, per the report.

  • “The number of children aged 5 to 17 years in hazardous work – defined as work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morals – has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016.”

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, insufficient social protections, population increases and poverty have resulted in an additional 16.6 million children in child labour over the last four years.

  • Economic slowdowns and school closures spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns led many already-working children to work longer hours or endure deteriorating conditions, the report noted.

  • “Child labour is frequently associated with children being out of school. A large share of younger children in child labour are excluded from school despite falling within the age range for compulsory education. More than a quarter of children aged 5 to 11 and over a third of children aged 12 to 14 who are in child labour are out of school,” per the report.

Details: Key findings from the 2020 global estimates indicate…

  • Child labor is more common in rural (13.9%) than urban areas (4.7%).

  • Most (70%) of child labor takes place within the agriculture sector.

  • 72% of all child labor happens in families, largely on farms or in small businesses.

What they’re saying: “Many children feel they have no choice but to work to help their families survive, but a rise in child labor is not an inevitable consequence of the pandemic,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at HRW.

What to watch: Another 9 million children could be forced to work by the end of 2022 due to the pandemic, the report warns.

More from Axios: Sign up to get the latest market trends with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free