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UN group: social protections key to ending child labor

The UN International Labor Organization (ILO) [official website] on Monday released a report on child labor [text, PDF; press release] advocating social protections as the key to ending the practice. "[The] report contributes to a better understanding of the underlying economic and social vulnerabilities that generate child labour." Globally, the ILO estimates that at least 215 million children are in an adverse labor situation, with 115 million suffering the worst treatment including "practices akin to slavery, debt bondage, offering a child for prostitution, using a child for illicit activities and work that is harmful to health, safety or morals of children." To combat the problem, the ILO advocates the implementation of "social protection floors" in all countries to provide for the most basic needs of children. Further, the report highlights a number of programs currently showing success. For example, programs in Brazil and Cambodia have seen positive outcomes when linking cash transfers to families who actively support their children in education. In Guatemala, the report referenced a study that indicated that families where even one member of the household is covered by health insurance, there is a notable decrease in the likelihood of participation in the child labor markets.

In recent years, forced labor has been a growing subject of international attention, with particular reference to human trafficking. In February the ILO released a report estimating that 21 million people are subject to forced labor [JURIST report], which often includes human trafficking for labor exploitation, and identified solutions to address the issue. Commentators welcomed the report [JURIST op-ed], but criticized its lack of focus on the root cause of poverty. In January, the ILO released a report highlighting the vulnerability of domestic workers [JURIST report] worldwide. In June, the ILO released a report estimating that forced labor workers nearly doubled [JURIST report] worldwide from its 2005 estimate of 12 million. In November 2011, the UN criticized North Korea for allegedly abusing political prisoners in forced labor camps [JURIST report]. In August of the same year, the UN urged Thailand to combat forced labor [JURIST report], especially with regard to human trafficking.

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