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International Partnerships
News announcement17 June 2021Directorate-General for International Partnerships

Child labour is on the rise: it’s time to step-up action to end this practice for good


Today, high-profile representatives from governments, the EU, UN entities and social partners met virtually to exchange best practices on how to end child labour, both within the European Union and in partner countries. The event, High-Level Dialogue for Action on Child Labour, was organised by the European Commission, the ILO and UNICEF.

The European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, who opened the event, said: “Child labour is both the cause and the consequence of poverty and inequalities. We must tackle child labour under all of its different dimensions: ensuring quality education, decent income, social protection, gender equality, and leveraging the potential of empowered youth. I am proud to say that since 2008, the EU has supported 150 projects targeting child labour in 65 countries, for more than €200 million. The EU is committed to explore new areas and innovative approaches to step up its fight to eradicate child labour.”

The Commissioner recalled the EU’s commitment to tackle child labour through ongoing and new initiatives. She also highlighted the need for a holistic approach to end child labour. The EU has continuously worked to address its root causes by tackling poverty, inequalities, increasing access to quality education, promoting due diligence for sustainable supply chains, and support governments, local actors and businesses, especially in the most affected countries. This is in line with the newly adopted EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child.

For example, the EU Sustainable Cocoa project contributes €25 million to enhance the sustainability of cocoa production in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon, who account for almost 70% of the global production. The project aims to eradicate child labour, while increasing the farmers’ income and halting deforestation.

Other high-level representatives included Moussa Oumarou, ILO Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships; Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Assistant Secretary General and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Partnerships; Claudine Ndusi Ntembe, Minister of Employment, Labour and Social welfare of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Arantxa González Laya, Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of Spain.

The participants also discussed the key findings of the new ILO and UNICEF’s report called Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward. It reveals that the number of child labourers has risen to 160 million worldwide for the first time in 20 years. The COVID-19 pandemic makes it worse by putting 9 million more children at risk of child labour. The participants examined links with other key areas such as education, training, decent work, rural development and agriculture, among other things.

Former child labourers presented their first-hand testimonies at the event. Then a panel discussion explored the best approaches to accelerate action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals target 8.7 on ending child labour in all its forms by 2025.

The event was part of a "Week of Action” to mark the World Day against Child Labour in 2021, which is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. The event also provided an opportunity to assess progress on the implementation of the “2021 Action Pledges”.

It is a pivotal year in the fight against child labour, coming at the mid-way point since the last Global Conference on Child Labour in Argentina and the next one to be held in South Africa in 2022.

The EU will continue to explore new areas and effective approaches to eradicate child labour, in cooperation with the Alliance 8.7. The 2022 global conference on child labour in South Africa will be instrumental in this regard; the EU is ready to actively participate and commits to further work with all actors towards an ambitious outcome by 2025.

More information

Find out more about the event here.

Read our latest article on child labour and agriculture for the International Year, which also includes information about what is happening for the International Year.

Visit the website for the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child.

EU Statement on the World Day Against Child Labour.


Publication date
17 June 2021
Directorate-General for International Partnerships