Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear brothers and sisters!
I have the pleasure of welcoming you all, gathered here from many parts of the
world, despite the difficulties due to the pandemic, to attend the international
conference “Eradicating child labour, building a better future”, which will take
place this afternoon at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human
The scourge of the abuse child labour, on which you are reflecting together
today, is of particular importance for the present and the future of our humanity.
The way we relate to children, the extent to which we respect their innate
human dignity and fundamental rights, expresses what kind of adults we are and
want to be, and what kind of society we want to build.
It is shocking and disturbing that in today’s economies, whose productive
activities rely on technological innovations, so much so that we talk about the
“fourth industrial revolution”, the employment of children in work activities
persists in every part of the world. This endangers their health and their mental
and physical well-being, and deprives them of the right to education and to live
their childhood with joy and serenity. The pandemic has further aggravated the
Child labour is not to be confused with the small domestic tasks that children, in
their spare time and according to their age, can perform as part of family life, to
help parents, siblings, grandparents or other members of the community. These
activities are generally beneficial to their development, as they allow them to
test their skills and grow in awareness and responsibility. Child labour is
something else entirely! It is the exploitation of children in the production
processes of the globalised economy for the profit and gain of others. It is the
denial of children’s rights to health, education and harmonious growth, including
the possibility to play and dream. This is tragic. A child who cannot dream, who
cannot play, cannot grow up. It is robbing children of their future and therefore
humanity itself. It is a violation of human dignity.
Extreme poverty, lack of work and the resulting desperation in families are the
factors that expose children most to labour exploitation. If we want to eradicate
the scourge of child labour, we must work together to eradicate poverty, to
correct the distortions in the current economic system, which centralises wealth
in the hands of a few. We must encourage states and business actors to create
opportunities for decent work with fair wages that enable families to meet their
needs without their children being forced to work. We must combine our efforts
to promote quality education that is free for all in every country, as well as a
health system that is accessible to all without distinction. All social actors are
called upon to combat child labour and its causes. The participation in this
conference of representatives of international organisations, civil society,
business and the Church is a sign of great hope.
I urge the Department for the Service of Integral Human Development, which is
also responsible for promoting children’s development, to continue its work of
stimulating, facilitating and coordinating the initiatives and efforts already
underway at all levels to combat child labour.
And to you, speakers and participants at this meeting, I express my gratitude:
thank you for sharing your expertise and commitment to this cause, which is
truly a question of civilisation. I encourage you to continue along this path,
without becoming discouraged by the inevitable difficulties, but always
expanding the network of people and organisations involved. Let us always keep
in mind the words of Jesus in the Gospel: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to
one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”. (Mt 25:40).
I entrust you, your families and your work to the maternal intercession of Mary
Most Holy, and I bless you from my heart. Thank you.