A United Nations agency is pressing governments across Asia to take urgent action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, as it releases alarming new figures on underage work among girls. More than 100 million girls worldwide are involved in child labour, says an International Labour Office (ILO) report released today to coincide with World Day Against Child Labour. About 53 million girls, including 20 million under 12, were estimated to be involved in dangerous work. Studies indicated that girls accounted for the majority of children roped into commercial sexual exploitation, and forced and bonded labour, the report found. Give Girls a Chance involved a survey of data from 16 countries, which revealed that 61 per cent of economically active girls aged five to 14 were working in agriculture, 30 per cent were in domestic work and 9 per cent were in industry. Hazardous occupations included mining, domestic work, child prostitution, pornography, bonded labour and a variety of roles associated with armed forces. Using a new measure of child labour that takes into account unpaid domestic chores, it found the proportion of girls aged five to 14 who were working was 15 per cent higher than that of boys. In all countries surveyed, girls also worked longer hours. Simrin Singh, senior specialist on child labour with the ILO's East Asia office, said urgent action had to be taken by governments to meet their obligations to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. A total of 169 out of 183 ILO member states - including nine out of 10 Southeast Asian states - had ratified a convention aimed at the complete elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016. 'The provision of free, compulsory and quality education, at least up to the minimum age of employment, is the most important policy step a government can take to tackle child labour,' she said. 'Reducing the indirect cost of education [uniforms, books, transport, etc] is also an important means of removing burdens that may otherwise prevent poor families from sending their children to school.' In the Southeast Asian region, the majority of children worked in agriculture, followed by the service sector and industry. Girls were involved in mining, construction, salt production and the manufacture of bricks, footwear and clothing. 'Our experience in the region has shown that children, particularly girls, are indeed involved in prostitution and many are also victims of trafficking for both sexual and labour exploitation purposes,' Ms Singh said. A global study of working children carried out by the ILO in 2006 found the Asia-Pacific had by far the largest number of any region, with 122.3 million children aged five to 14 - or 18.8 per cent of the age group - taking part in economic activity in 2004. Anoop Sukumaran, spokesman for Hong Kong-based labour advocacy group the Asia Monitor Resource Centre, said the situation was most severe in South Asia. 'Governments in South Asia have taken steps to address child labour through legislation but that's often as far as it goes,' he said. 'Non-government organisations have repeatedly pointed out that much needs to be done to ensure that legislation is implemented and the root causes of child labour are addressed.' Campaigners across the Asia- Pacific were today to hold events to mark World Day Against Child Labour and raise awareness of the negative impact of work on children's development. In Vietnam, children were due to take part in an art competition and children's newspapers were set to run articles by children on the issue. In Bangladesh, a teenagers' conference, a rally and workshops were due to be held. In Hong Kong, the minimum age of employment is 15 but children aged 13 and 14 may be employed in non-industrial firms subject to legal restrictions aimed at protecting their health, safety and welfare and ensuring they attend school full time. A spokeswoman for the Labour and Welfare Bureau said work places were rigorously inspected to monitor compliance with labour regulations, including those concerning children. In the past three years, the Labour Department had successfully prosecuted 14 employers for illegal employment of 18 children.