Social protection helps reduce child labor (ILO / UNICEF)

The role of social protection in the abolition of child labor: review of evidence and policy implications, presents results from a series of studies conducted since 2010 that show how social protection – by helping families cope with financial or health shocks – reduces child labor and facilitates schooling.

However, too little progress has been made in ensuring that all children benefit from social protection, the study says. Worldwide, 73.6%, or about 1.5 billion children aged 0 to 14, receive no family benefits or cash benefits. The report indicates that this important protection hole needs to be filled as soon as possible.

“There are many reasons to invest in universal social protection, but eliminating child labor must be one of the most compelling given its devastating impact on children’s rights and welfare,” said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the ILO. .

Governments have a number of policies they can implement to promote social protection. Unless policy makers act decisively, the Covid-19 pandemic, ongoing conflicts, growing poverty and climate change will only increase the prevalence of child labor, the study says.

More than 160 million children worldwide, or 1 in 10 children aged 5 to 17, are still engaged in child labor, and progress has stalled since 2016. These trends were already present before the Covid-19 crisis. It is estimated that without mitigation strategies, the number of child workers could increase by 8.9 million by the end of 2022 due to increased poverty and vulnerability.

Investment in universal social protection

To strengthen the social protection systems for the prevention and abolition of child labor, the report makes a number of recommendations:

  • Closure of social security coverage for children.

This requires prioritizing child benefits as well as expanding the social protection of the two billion workers in the informal economy, in order to support their transition from the informal to the formal economy.

There are many reasons to invest in universal social protection, but removing child labor is one of the most compelling, Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General

  • Building integrated social protection systems.

Child labor could be reduced if countries have a social protection system that provides adequate benefits across the life cycle, from child and family benefits to old-age pensions and maternity benefits and unemployment as well as health protection.

  • Ensure that the design of social protection programs is inclusive and takes into account child labor in order to optimize child labor reduction programs.

This involves i.a. the establishment of child allowances for all households with children, in particular those in situations of greater vulnerability; facilitate the receipt of social security benefits for those caring for children by simplifying the registration procedures; and increase investment in high-quality universal basic education and other vital social services for children.

  • Build on the strong political commitment that already exists to end child labor and establish universal social protection to create consensus on action.

The Agenda for Sustainable Development, the strong consensus adopted by the International Labor Conference in 2021, and the results of the Durban Conference on Child Labor can help coordinate international initiatives.

  • Promote investment in social protection systems as a driving force for development.

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