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March 8, 2005
One in 12 children forced into world's 'worst forms' of labor: UNICEF UK
Agence France Presse

One child in 12 is forced into the "worst forms" of labor, including slavery, the sex trade and hazardous and illicit activities, the British branch of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF (news - web sites)) said in a report.

LONDON (AFP) - One child in 12 is forced into the "worst forms" of labor, including slavery, the sex trade and hazardous and illicit activities, the British branch of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF (news - web sites)) said in a report.

UNICEF UK said that 350 million children aged five to 17 worked, and that 180 million of them were "involved in the worst forms of child labour -- hazardous work, slavery, forced labor, in armed forces, commercial sexual exploitation and illicit activities".

Fully 97 percent of those worst cases of child labor take place in developing countries, it said, stressing that the fight against poverty was the best means to improve the plight of children.

"One way to put an end to the exploitation of children... is by taking action to make poverty history and ensuring a commitment to more and better international aid," said UNICEF UK executive director David Bull.

The report said that in the 43 countries where annual incomes are 500 dollars (383 euros) or less per person, between 30 and 60 percent of children are used in child labor, while in countries where average income rises to 500-1,000 dollars, the percentage of child laborers drops to between 10 and 30 percent.

"They form a vicious circle, poverty giving rise to labor and labor perpetuating poverty," the report said.

UNICEF UK lauded the pledge of developed countries, made more than 30 years ago, of allocating 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to development aid but regretted that only five countries today fulfill that promise -- Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Sweden.

The lack of access to education for girls, the scourge of HIV (news - web sites)/AIDS (news - web sites) and a failure of communities to protect their youth also perpetuate the "worst forms" of child labor.

UN agencies define the "worst form" category as work that is psychologically, physical or sexually abusive, involves underground or underwater tasks, work with dangerous machinery or heavy loads, or in an environment with clear health hazards.

The report cited International Labor Organization data estimating that eight million children are forced into bonded labor or other forms of slavery, into prostitution or pornography, participation in armed conflict or illicit activities like the drug trade.

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