HAMILTON, ON, June 21, 2019 — More than 200 million children, as young as five years old, are trapped in “despicable” labour conditions, according to a soon-to-be-released report by faith-based humanitarian agency GFA World Formerly Gospel for Asia (www.gfa.ca). In conjunction with World Day Against Child Labour on June 12, GFA released highlights of the report to boost awareness of the tragic situation.
The annual World Day Against Child Labour spotlights the plight of child labourers and campaigns to stop the labour exploitation of children.
GFA's Child Labour: Not Gone, But Forgotten report, which will be released next month, reveals startling facts about child labour, including up to a quarter of hazardous work such as dangerous mining is done by children under age 12. Almost half of all child labourers are under age 11.
“It's a horrible and tragic story,” said GFA World founder Dr. K.P. Yohannan. “Around the world, over 200 million children as young as five years old are employed in often dangerous conditions, and a majority of those children are in forced labour or enslaved. The number is beyond our comprehension. As the Church, it is our responsibility to intercede for the exploited children and do what we can to help them.”
If the estimated 218 million children represented a country of their own, it would be the fifth largest nation in the world, exceeded in population only by China, India, the U.S., and Indonesia, the report states.
The problem could be worse than officially reported.
“Census data is likely to underestimate the scale of the crisis,” Dr. K.P. Yohannan said. “Children who are orphaned, living on the streets, or working in forced labour might go unreported. Child labour deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity.”
Nations with the largest numbers of child labourers include Bangladesh, which is ranked number one, and the African countries of Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Ethiopia. Top “occupations” for children include working in the clothing industry, agriculture, mining, and brick making. Others work as street vendors, beggars, or garbage dump scavengers.
“The worst forms of child labour are slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, and forced recruitment of children in armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, and other criminal activities,” Dr. K.P. Yohannan said.
In South Asia, Lakshmi's 10-year-old sister works in bonded labour – security for repayment of a debt – seven days a week, starting at 7 a.m. and finishing at 9 p.m.”(Her employer) treats her very badly,” Lakshmi said. “He hits her if he thinks she's working slowly; if she talks to the other children, he yells at her. He comes looking for her if she's sick and can't go to work. All I want is to bring my sister home.” It would cost $8.50 to free his sister from bonded labour – but Lakshmi's family is too poor to afford it.
While most countries have laws against child labour, in many of the poorest nations the laws are rarely, if ever, enforced. Around the world each year, an estimated 2.7 million people – including many children – die from work-related causes and accidents. Many others are maimed, or suffer serious work-related injuries, including amputated limbs.
An investigation by the International Justice Mission into one brick-making factory in Asia revealed dozens of children were forced to work 16-hour days, seven days a week. “The children were beaten with a pipe and verbally abused if they were caught playing when they were supposed to be working,” Dr. K.P. Yohannan said.
Even children working in less dangerous environments are exploited with long hours, dismal pay, harsh treatment, and terrible working conditions. Bithni started working in a clothing factory in Bangladesh when she was 12, sewing pockets onto designer jeans. She has to sew 60 pockets per hour, every hour – one pocket every minute during her eight-hour shift – for which she earns one dollar a day.
“Child labour is linked to the extreme poverty that enslaves nearly half the world's population,” said Dr. K.P. Yohannan, whose organization helps thousands of vulnerable children across South Asia, providing education, healthcare, and clean water. “We might never end child labour, but we must continue doing everything in our power to help those we have the opportunity to rescue and care for in the name of Jesus.”
Celebrating its 40thanniversary in 2019, GFA World ( www.gfa.ca) is a leading faith-based humanitarian and mission agency, bringing vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions, especially to those who have yet to hear the “good news” of Jesus Christ. In 2018, this included more than 70,000 sponsored children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,100 villages and remote communities, over 4,700 wells drilled, over 11,400 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 240,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry.
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