Cher Jean, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to participate, on behalf of the European Commission, in this important event marking the International Year for the elimination of the Child Labour.
Until recently, we considered that we were making slow but steady progress towards the elimination of child labour.
The latest figures are however very worrying. Between 2016 and 2020, the global progress against child labour has stagnated.
The new estimates indicate that there were 160 million children in child labour at the beginning of 2020. Almost half of those children worked in hazardous conditions that directly endangered their health, safety and moral development.
And with the Covid-19 pandemic, our challenge has grown much greater. Schools were closed for a long time and many children around the world have dropped out and started working.
The pandemic may force a further 9 million young boys and girls into work by the end of 2022.
We therefore find ourselves at a crossroads: we risk seeing the reversal of a 20 year-long effort.
This is alarming and unacceptable situation, which requires us to redouble our efforts to reach the 2025 target.
This International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour therefore takes on new relevance and our public policies need to be up to the challenge.
We in the European Commission have kept the promises made earlier in the year.
In the recently adopted EU Strategy on the rights of the Child, we renewed our commitment to strengthen children’s rights within the EU and beyond.
Through the establishment of the European Child Guarantee we kept our promise to ensure effective and free of charge access of children in need to essential services within the EU, with a view of tackling child poverty and social exclusion.
We have also reviewed our trade policy. We are stepping up our efforts for an effective implementation of the ILO child labour conventions by our trade partners.
And we are now working on another key pledge to review our decent work agenda and to further promote human rights due diligence in global supply chains. We cannot continue consuming products, which are collected or assembled in disgraceful working conditions.
I hope today will be the occasion to show that governments remain committed to this crucial mission. As Mr Satyarthi once said, when we speak of child labour, “humanity itself is at stake”.
By putting the adequate efforts and sharing the right practices, and with the contribution of the civil society, we can ensure that all children have access to education and to safe living environment, thus building better future for the young generations.
Watch the full event on YouTube