Pope Francis on Wednesday urged governments to combat child labor, saying it is horrifying that children who should be playing are working as adults or cleaning up rubbish dumps to sell something .
Speaking in his weekly general audience, Francis also lamented that in many countries people were being exploited in unauthorized, underground economies, working for no profit or legal protection.
He said, “Let us think about the victims of work, which children are forced to work. It’s terrible.”
The United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) said in a report last year that the number of children in labor worldwide increased to about 160 million in 2020.
Pope commented, “Children who are at an age when they should be playing are forced to act like adults. Let’s think of kids who are poor little things, piles of garbage.” I’m looking for something useful to trade or sell.” Most were improvised.
Progress to end child labor was halted for the first time in 20 years at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, reversing the trend of the previous decline, said the ILO report with UN children’s agency UNICEF .
He said the lack of work is a “social injustice” and that while donations and handouts for the unemployed were important, they filled but did not give respect.
“Governments should give a chance to everyone to earn their bread as it gives them respect. Work fills people with dignity,” he said.
According to the ILO, Africa has the highest number of child laborers in the world, with approximately 72 million child workers, of whom about 43 percent are in hazardous work.
Among the audience, Francis asked for a moment of silence to remember the unemployed, victims of industrial accidents and those who lost their lives after losing their jobs due to the pandemic.