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Climate change profoundly affects child labour, ILO research finds

– The impact of climate change on global progress towards ending all forms of child labour is highlighted in a new ILO issue paper.

GENEVA, Switzerland, (ILO News) – Climate change is multiplying the incidence of child labour, particularly in agriculture where 70 percent of all child labour is found, according to a new paper by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Issue paper on child labour and climate change , is being released as delegates gather to discuss climate action at the COP28 Climate Change Conference, and during the 14th annual meeting of the ILO Child Labour Platform (CLP), the leading business initiative to eradicate child labour in supply chains. The paper finds that climate change – and the public and private sector responses to it – is having a profound impact on child labour and on progress towards the 2025 target date for ending all forms of child labour set in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Children have been identified as one of the population groups at greatest risk from the systemic shocks caused by climate change. The issue paper analyses existing research and identifies some of the key channels through which climate change and climate change responses are linked to child labour.

It finds that increased poverty is probably the most important link between climate change and child labour. The damage caused by climate change is significantly affecting livelihoods and living conditions, pushing more people into poverty and degrading the circumstances of those who are already poor and vulnerable. There is evidence that these conditions induce households to rely more on child labour, the paper says.

Other key impact channels identified in the paper include:

  • Changes to agricultural productivity;
  • Climate-related extreme weather shocks;
  • Climate-driven migration and conflict;
  • Health issues and hazardous child labour; and
  • Destruction or degradation of basic services infrastructure.

The issue paper also finds that policy responses can have an important impact on child labour, and there is an urgent need to take child labour into consideration when planning public and private actions to support climate-neutral economies and societies. Above all, this means ensuring that climate action is structured to further child labour reduction goals and does not have unintended negative consequences.

The paper highlights important implications for future public and private climate actions, particularly as the impact of climate change grows and intensifies. For example, public climate change adaptation policies, such as environmentally sustainable methods to intensify agriculture production, or public works schemes to buffer climate shocks, must be designed to reduce household dependence on child labour rather than creating greater demand for it.

For businesses, which face both environmental and human rights challenges, it means ensuring that environmental and human rights priorities are reasonably aligned and mutually reinforcing.

The issue paper was launched at the CLP annual meeting in Geneva with a discussion between business leaders on the emerging challenges and opportunities for action across regions and supply chains . The paper will also be presented at the ILO Just Transition Pavilion , at the 28th session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), taking place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.



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