Geneva: A global drive against child labour has slackened in recent years, with some 215 million children and a growing number of boys locked in the practice, the UN labour agency warned on Friday.
The number represented a decline of just three percent from 222 million child workers in 2004 who were more than five years old, said an ILO report released ahead of the Global Child Labour conference in The Hague on Monday.
Of the 2008 global total, the latest data available, more than half -- 113.6 million children --- were based in the Asia-Pacific region despite recent progress there, the International Labour Organisation said.
And while progress worldwide against the practice was most marked among girls, the ILO said it was alarmed about the growing plight of 15 to 17 year old youngsters of both sexes.
The number of working older teenagers grew by 20 percent in 2004-2008 to 62 million, while the number of boys in child labour rose by seven percent to 127.7 million.
"The economic downturn cannot become an excuse for diminished ambition and inaction," said ILO director general Juan Somavia, as the report warned of a "slowing down of the global pace of reduction”.
"Progress is uneven, neither fast enough nor comprehensive enough to reach the goals that we have set."
"The situation calls for a re-energised campaign against child labour. We must scale up action and move into a higher gear," he added.