UN's FAO Says Targets to Reduce Child Labor May Be Missed

International targets to eliminate the worst forms of child labor will be missed unless countries step up efforts to reduce unpaid work by children in farming, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

About 130 million child laborers between the ages of five and 17 work in agriculture, or 60 percent of the world’s underage workers, the Rome-based agency wrote in a statement on its website today.

Governments, worker and employer organizations agreed in 2006 to get rid of the worst forms of child labor by 2016, according to the FAO. Examples of hazardous work by children in farming include working in fields treated with pesticides and carrying heavy loads, it said.

“Child labor is a human-rights abuse and is an obstacle to sustainable development of agriculture and food security,” Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO director-general, was cited as saying in the statement.

Action on child labor is often focused on international markets and commodities for export such as cocoa and cotton, while the majority of child workers in agriculture are on small-scale family farms, the FAO wrote.

“Work that harms children’s health and development can have long-lasting effects into adulthood, and child labor has been repeatedly shown to have a negative effect on eduction,” Graziano da Silva said. “It is our joint responsibility to support poor rural families so children can go to school instead.”

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