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Child Labor Prominent in Third World, Industrialized Nations

April 5, 1986

BRUSSELS, Begium (AP) _ As many as 145 million children in Third World and industrialized nations work, yet child labor exploitation remains shrouded behind ″a wall of silence,″ according to a trade union report published this week.

The world’s largest non-communist trade union group, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, said the practice wrecks the children and the economies of developing nations, where child labor exploitation is most prevalent.

″By beginning work too early, child workers destroy their chances of becoming energetic, healthy workers,″ the report said. ″No developing country hoping to build a modern economy can achieve its potential growth without an energetic and healthy work force.″

The ICFTU report, called ″Breaking Down the Wall of Silence. How to Combat Child Labor,″ said in India alone, over 15 million of the 230 million children work, or 5 percent of India’s labor force.

In Africa and the Middle East, the report set the figure at 16 million. Statistics for Latin America were not complete but Brazil had 3 million child workers.

″Vicious forms of child labor exploitation are neither isolated or confined to one particular continent or country,″ the Brussels-based ICFTU said.

In developed countries, the majority is employed in agriculture. In the United States ″some 800,000 underaged children survive by harvesting crops with their family across America,″ said the report.

It said its figures were compiled from a variety of sources, including the United Nations and labor organizations.

Since many children work illegally, exact figures are hard to compile. The U.N. International Labor Organization estimates between 50 to 55 million children under 15 work. Other organizations put the figure as high as 145 million.

But despite national legislation in most countries barring child labor, ″employers, parents, and in some cases even children, are reluctant to supply information,″ for fear of losing income.

In the Third World, children work as housekeepers, farmers, hunters and prostitutes, the ICFTU report said. If they earn money, it added, they are generally underpaid, mistreated and perform monotonous work in unhealthy environments.

Often, children work up to 15 hours a day. In Brazil, ″nearly half a million children between 10 and 14 years of age work more than 49 hours a week,″ the report charged.

The children suffer because of constant fatigue, over-exertion, lack of hygiene and unhealthy work conditions, the report said. Often, the children remain underfed and undereducated.

With its report, the ICFTU, which groups 82 million trade unionists from 99 countries, called upon ″governments, international bodies and public opinion to ensure a certain effort is made to eliminate child labor..,.″ IFTU General Secretary John Vanderveken said.

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