THERE are more than 200 million child labourers around the world, and at least 150 million are in forced labour, a new report says.
The report, Child Labour: Not gone, but forgotten, was published by Gospel for Asia (GFA) last week. It lists Bangladesh, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and India as the countries where child labour is most prevalent.
It says: “Childhood is an essential, formative time of life — one which many child labourers must leave too quickly. Their lives may long bear the physical, emotional, and physiological consequences of their early adulthood.
“Many child labourers, regardless of whether they are considered forced or not, lack the chance of acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to extract themselves from the poverty they were born or thrust into by circumstances.
“Many enter adulthood with no means of securing a better life and with few options for jobs, which extends the continuum of generational poverty to their own children.”
The report also says that an estimated 2.7 million children around the world die every year from work-related injuries and illnesses.
It quotes the director-general of the International Labour Organization, Guy Ryder: “If these were the victims of a war, we would be talking a lot about it. Children and young workers are at greater risk and suffer disproportionately and with longer-lasting consequences.”
The founder of GFA, Dr. K. P. Yohannan, said: “The exploitation and abuse that children face in many parts of the world right now is staggeringly evil and beyond shocking.
“As their struggle becomes more visible via social media and other media channels, we in the West can’t pretend we can’t see what’s happening. God sees each child caught in child labour, slavery, and sex trafficking, and he calls every one of us to pray, engage, and act on their behalf.”
Speaking last week, a former Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, who was also the founder of the Clewer Initiative and chairs the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel, said: “It is very hard to give exact figures, because there is a scale between deliberative, exploitative, systematic employment of children, and different cultures and contexts.
“In our terms, we would see it as oppressive; but you have to look at it through different contexts. Where practices are embedded, it’s a longer-term project to change the culture.”
He spoke of a project that he is involved with, which seeks to stop children from working in the brick kiln industry in Pakistan, where the market forces employers to take on children rather than adults.
The report says that 56 per cent of brick makers in Afghanistan are children.
Dr Redfern said: “We have to look at the pastoral level, but also work with economic systems. People are understanding the message, but trying to make the shift isn’t simple.
“There are tragic stories of children being rescued from one situation and ending up in prostitution. So you’ve got to be thoughtful and calculate how to actually change their situation.”
Asked whether he thought that it was a problem in the UK, he said: “I think there’s a certain amount of child exploitation in forced labour, but there’s also exploitation through county lines and sexual exploitation.”