06/12/2014, 00.00
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Child labor: still 168 million "baby-slaves" in the world today

Today is World Day Against Child Labour, still widespread in the world. There are 168 million child laborers in the world, with about 85 million engaged in some of the worst forms of child labor including slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, prostitution and other hazardous work which puts them at risk of death.

Rome (AsiaNews/Agencies) - One 16-year-old girl from the Yi ethnic minority was sent back to her village in Sichuan province after labour inspectors found her and several other underage workers in a factory in Dongguan , Guangdong, the Peninsula Metropolis Daily reports. She said she previously worked at a factory in Shenzhen. They had to work for more than 12 hours a day and were not allowed to talk or check text messages on their mobile phone during working hours. They were paid 12 yuan (almost 1.5 euro) an hour, of which 3 yuan was commission for the agent who set up the job.

The central government does not make public statistics Dr Liu Kaiming,director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation, said: "In central and western provinces, the drop-out rate among junior middle school pupils can be as high as 10 per cent".

Just yesterday, pope Francis during the general audience dedicated to "fear of God", added to an appeal against the exploitation of child labor. "Millions of children are forced to work in degrading conditions, exposed to forms of slavery and exploitation, as well as abuse, mistreatment and discrimination." "I fervently hope that the international community can extend social protection of minors to eradicate this scourge. We must all renew our commitment, especially families, to ensure every child dignity and a healthy growth. A serene childhood allows children to look with confidence at life and the future".

Yet today, India presides over by far the biggest number of victims - an estimated 10 million. Contractors operate openly as they trade people and families, transporting them to work in the cotton, brick and other industries that feed India's economy.The stories told by those who have been freed or escape are widespread and horrendous. Workers are kept in check by a wall of fear and threats that reach right back into their villages.

More than a decade after a slate of famous chocolate companies promised the US Congress to eradicate child labour on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, children are still working openly, often trafficked far away from their families.

The latest ILO figures estimate that there are 168 million child labourers globally, with about 85 million engaged in some of the worst forms of work - including slavery, trafficking and debt bondage, prostitution and other hazardous work that puts children at risk of ill health, injury or even death.

We have launched projects in both developing and developed regions. For example, in Cambodia and India, rehabilitation of child labourers has included the provision of counselling, education, life skills and vocational training. Networks have been formed to raise awareness of the issue and promote child rights. And livelihood assistance has been provided in the form of microfinance services.

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