Child Labor Diminishing Worldwide
June 11 was the annual World Day against Child Labor. The International Labor Organization, one of the watchdogs over global labor abuses, reported that the number of child workers fell 11% globally over the past four years. Especially gratifying, the number of children doing hazardous work decreased overall 26% and, in the 5-14 year age group, by 33%. (In raw numbers [year 2004] there were 218 million child laborers, with 126 million in hazardous work. More boys work than girls. Latin America and the Caribbean showed the greatest progress. Only 5% of the children in those regions worked. Child labor levels in sub-Saharan Africa remained high. Child labor is most prevalent in nations heavily reliant on agriculture.
Since 1891 (Rerum Novarum) the Church has opposed child labor abuses. Pope Leo XIII stated children should not work before their minds and bodies were sufficiently developed In 1996 Pope John Paul II described onerous child labor as a form of violence. Nonetheless, the Church does recognize that some child labor contributes significantly (and indispensably) to family income. The Church's concern is over "veritable slavery" which chooses utility over human dignity. [#29, "Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine]
A spokesperson for the Indian bishops' Commission for Labor said that India leads the world in the use of child labor. This is caused by poverty, but also by broken families and "vices of the heads of families." Because children are a nation's future, the bishops urged that more nutrition, education, health care and child rights be provided.