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Group Works to End Child Labor

A child laborer eats a piece of a muskmelon near Jammu, India, June 12, 2015.
A child laborer eats a piece of a muskmelon near Jammu, India, June 12, 2015.
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The International Labor Organization, known as the ILO, has launched a campaign to end child labor.

ILO officials organized a series of events to mark the World Day Against Child Labor earlier this month. Officials say child labor victimizes 168 million children worldwide.

The United Nations agency called a meeting of experts to examine how businesses use children to make goods that are sold throughout the world.

The meeting was held in Geneva, Switzerland.

That is the “Choir for the Abolition of Child Labor,” a group of young people from Ivory Coast. The choir works to spread the message that children should be going to school, not working.

The music set the right note for the high-level discussion on ways to end child labor. The experts said children are now involved in every part of the supply chain -- from the manufacture of products to their distribution to buyers and other people.

Most child labor involves goods being made for consumers in the country in which the children are working. But children also produce goods and services for export.

Guy Ryder is director-general of the International Labor Organization. He says governments, employers, workers’ unions and consumers must work together to end child labor. He says companies must work to make sure their suppliers are free of child labor.

“From enterprises, we need a clear message of zero tolerance of child labor. They need to know what is happening in their supply chains and to back that up with action in their business practices and dealings with suppliers. And this, I believe, is the common expectation of business in the 21st century.”

Children work for low or no pay in abusive, slave-like and dangerous conditions. They have jobs in agriculture, fishing, clothing manufacturing, electronics and mining.

Philip Jennings is general-secretary of UNI Global Union, a worldwide workers’ movement. He says not enough is being done to end child labor.

“There are 168 million reasons why we, as a community, cannot drop the ball and drop out of the conversation on child labor.”

Jennings admits there has been progress in ending child labor. He notes that child labor has been reduced by one-third in the past 10 years. And he says governments have promised to end the custom by 2025.

“The clock is running. The time for excuses from business is over. And we simply do not buy the argument that it is all the fault of government. We want business to accept its responsibility and to work with the social partners and local governments to ensure that child labor isn't a reality.”

The experts agree that one way to end child labor is for adults and young people of working age to have good jobs.

Some of the experts called on the ILO to write rules about how to end child labor in the complex global system that now exists.

I’m Dorothy Gundy.

Lisa Schlein reported this story from Geneva for Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

consumer - n. someone who uses something, such as a produce or service

abolition – n. the act of officially ending or stopping something; the act of abolishing something

supply chain – n. a system of organizations, people, activities, information and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer; activities involve the transformation of natural resources, raw materials and components into a finished product that is delivered to the customer.

enterprise – n. a business organization

zero tolerance – n. a policy of giving the most severe punishment possible to every person who commits a crime or breaks a rule; a policy of not permitting exceptions to a rule

practices – n. policies or actions of a business

clock is running – expression time is running out; people are watching to see what is being done