Migration of Child Labour

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An estimated 214 million persons worldwide – or 3.1 percent of the world’s population - are international migrants.1 This figure is dwarfed by the number of internal migrants which UNDP estimates to be 740 million.2 Youth make up a disproportionate share of the world’s migrants; about a third of the migrant flow from all developing countries is in the age range of 12 to 24

Also, around the world an estimated 215 million boys and girls are engaged in child labour4 as defined in ILO Convention No. 1385 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Migration can be an important determinant for child labour. The recently adopted Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour7 recognizes the need to address child vulnerabilities related to migration. In article 5 it states: ‘Governments should consider ways to address the potential vulnerability of children to, in particular the worst forms of child labour, in the context of migratory flows’.

Based on a desk review of literature and consultations with field staff, this working paper explores how migration - both internal and international – can affect children’s involvement in child labour. The paper focuses on voluntary migration, excludes child trafficking8 and distinguishes three categories as follows: 1) children who migrate with their parents (i.e. family migration), 2) independent child migrants, and 3) children left-behind by migrant parents. The link to child labour of each of these categories is explored below, followed by a series of strategic considerations for action. In reviewing evidence related to the three categories, both internal and international migration are covered interchangeably

Globally, 1 in 8 persons is a migrant. This includes an estimated 214 million international migrants and an estimated 740 million internal migrants. Youth account for a large share; about a third of the migrant flow from all developing countries is in the age...
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