The global union movement is calling for governments, employers and workers to take action to halt the exploitation of child labor around the world, and especially in Uzbekistan.
During the month of June, global unions and governments are focusing on the issue of child labor. June 12 was World Day Against Child Labor, but events are ongoing around the world all month.
At a recent conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO), workers and employers reported that millions of children were forced to leave school to do hazardous work in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.
Unions estimate that in the 2010 harvest alone in Uzbekistan, up to 2 million children between 10 and 16 years old were forced to work in hazardous conditions, with heavy lifting, exposure to pesticides and incidences of rashes and respiratory diseases and cases of meningitis and hepatitis.
“The global union movement is calling on Uzbekistan to respect fundamental labor rights and to allow an independent committee under the auspices of the ILO to observe the next harvest,” says Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
We will continue to highlight this state abuse of young people, and the profiteering by world cotton buyers on the backs of children forced from their school to work in appalling conditions.
Uzbekistan is one of the worst offenders on child labor, but the problem is worldwide, the ILO reports. Some 215 million children work around the world. More than half—115 million—are involved in work that directly threatens their health and lives, such as work in hazardous environments, slavery or other forms of forced labor, illicit activities, including drug trafficking and prostitution and involvement in armed conflict.
Although child labor is slowly declining overall, the ILO notes a disturbing 20 percent increase—from 52 million to 62 million—of hazardous work in the 15- to 17-year-old age group.
This problem is not confined to developing countries. The ILO found that in the United States and Europe, children have higher rates of injury and death at work than adults. Click here to read the report, “Children In Hazardous Work.”
ILO General Secretary Juan Somavia said:
Governments, employers and workers must act together to give strong leadership in shaping and implementing the policies and action that can end child labor. The persistence of child labor is a clear indictment of the prevailing model of growth. Tackling work that jeopardizes the safety, health or morals of children must be a common and urgent priority.