WASHINGTON — Nearly 60 percent of 140 countries reviewed in a new report made moderate or significant advancement in reducing the worst forms of child labor in 2014, but the problem is still widespread globally, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
DOL released its 2014 “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor” on Wednesday, in conjunction with a newly developed mobile app that contains information on goods produced by child or forced labor and the latest findings on the worst forms of child labor. The app digitally reduces thousands of pages of research conducted by the DOL’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs.
“This report and the new mobile app are intended as practical tools to identify the problem and help governments around the world firm up the foundations of such protections, so that children don’t fall through the cracks,” said Deputy Labor Secretary Christopher P. Lu.
According to the International Labor Organization, an estimated 168 million children toil in agriculture, manufacturing and services around the world. Of that total, about 85 million children are engaged in hazardous work, including “some who dig and drill for 24-hour shifts in gold mines, spray toxic pesticides on crops or pick up trash on the streets,” the report said. Another 6 million are estimated to be in forced labor, “where they are used as soldiers, carpet weavers, in commercial sexual exploitation and other activities such as drug trafficking.”
Against that backdrop, U.S. labor officials said the assessment results “indicate both progress and setbacks in addressing the worst forms of child labor compared with assessments in 2013 and 2012.”
According to the report, 58 percent of the countries reviewed received a moderate advancement or higher assessment in eliminating the worst forms of child labor, while 39 percent of countries received an assessment of minimal advancement or lower and 3 percent received a “no assessment.”
Thirteen countries — Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Uganda, Madagascar, Paraguay and Thailand — received a “significant” advancement assessment, making “meaningful” efforts in the areas of legislation and enforcement on child labor, as well as implementing coordination mechanisms, polices or programs to address child labor.
But 19 countries or territories dropped from a moderate advancement assessment to a “minimal advancement” assessment last year. They are Armenia, Belize, Bolivia, Burundi, Gambia, Georgia, Kiribati, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Macedonia, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritius, Russia, Samoa, Senegal, Suriname, Tanzania, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The drop in assessment level was derived from a lack of effort being made in the area of legislation, government coordination and enforcement on the worst forms of child labor, according to the report.
By region, countries in Asia-Pacific were found to have 77.8 million children ages five to 17 engaged in child labor, representing 9.3 percent of all children in the region. In Central and South Asia, many children work in cotton cultivation, while children in South Asia are often found working as forced and bonded laborers in textile manufacturing, the report said.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, 12.5 million children ages five to 17 were engaged in child labor, representing 8 percent of all children in the region, the report said.
The report also noted industries where child labor is found. It cited instances of child labor in garment, textile and footwear production in several top 10 suppliers to the U.S, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Cambodia and Pakistan.
The report only assesses countries that utilize U.S. trade-preference programs. China, the top supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S, and Vietnam, the second-largest apparel supplier to the U.S., are not parties to those programs and were not covered by the report.
In cotton production, 26 countries were listed in the report as using child labor. One of the largest cotton producers, Uzbekistan, has been cited for years for government-sponsored child labor. The Labor Department gave Uzbekistan a “no advancement” assessment in the new report.
“While the central government made concerted efforts to prevent and to remediate forced child labor in cotton production, Uzbekistan is receiving an assessment of no advancement because of government complicity in forced child labor, particularly at the local level,” the report said. “Although there was no evidence of a large-scale, centrally coordinated, forced mobilization of children, some local officials, in more than an isolated incident, continued to mobilize children during the cotton harvest.”