Ending child labour
labour is one of the biggest social issues facing the world, especially
the developing world, though the developed world is not free from this
scourge. Children as young as five are employed for hard labour in some
parts of the world, not to mention the use of children as soldiers by
some terrorist groups.
What is child labour? Child labour means work that is prohibited for
children of certain age groups. It is work performed by children who are
under the minimum age legally specified for that kind of work, or work
which, because of its detrimental nature or conditions, is considered
unacceptable for children and is prohibited. The acceptable age for paid
labour varies from 14 to 16 globally.
There are grey areas as well - if your own child aged 12 works in
your general store or the paddy land to help you out, does that count as
child labour? However, even the UN recognises that children between the
ages of 13 and 15 years old may do light work, as long as it does not
threaten their health and safety, or hinder their education or
vocational orientation and training.
According o the UN and the International Labour Organization (ILO),
around 215 million children work, many full-time. New ILO estimates
suggest that there are about 317 million economically active children
aged 5 to 17, of whom 218 million could be regarded as child labourers.
Of the latter, 126 million were engaged in hazardous work. The 2002 ILO
Global Report indicated that the vast majority (70 per cent) of
children's work is concentrated in the agricultural sector and that the
informal economy harbours most child labour across all economic sectors.
These children do not go to school and have little or no time to
play. Many do not receive proper nutrition or care. They are denied the
chance to be children. More than half of them are exposed to the worst
forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments, slavery,
or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities including drug
trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.
Girls predominate in domestic work, while boys are heavily represented
in mining and quarrying.
the world, large numbers of children are engaged in paid or unpaid
domestic work in the home of a third party or employer. These children
can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Their work is often
hidden from the public eye, they may be isolated, and they may be
working far away from their family home. They are generally paid very
poor salaries, if at all. Stories of the abuse of children in domestic
work are all too common.
Today, the World Day Against Child Labour (June 12) the world is
focusing attention on this problem. The Day was launched in 2002 to
focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and
efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day
brings together governments, employers and workers organisations, civil
society, as well as millions of people from around the world to
highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help
World Day Against Child labour 2015 calls for: Free, compulsory and
quality education for all children at least to the minimum age for
admission to employment and action to reach those presently in child
labour; New efforts to ensure that national policies on child labour and
education are consistent and effective; Policies that ensure access to
quality education and investment in the teaching profession.
Sri Lanka, while not entirely free of child labour, has made vast
strides in eliminating it. The LTTE was known for using child soldiers
as young as 8-9 in the battlefield, despite several promises to the
international community. This issue is no longer a valid concern
following the group's defeat. Sri Lanka has now made education
compulsory until year 13, which should more or less automatically end
the problem of child labour. There is also greater awareness on child
labour and the National Child Protection Authority's proactive role has
also combated the problem. There is also a hotline for people to
complain about physical, verbal and sexual abuse of children. Laws too
have been strengthened to protect children from child labour and other
forms of abuse.
Child labour is necessarily a human rights problem, because these
children are denied an opportunity to live a decent life. They are
denied the right to education, play and rest compared to children who
live with their parents and are not subjected to child labour. While
there is a link between poverty and child labour (some children are
forced to work because their parents are unable to do or find a job), it
is not the only factor. The ILO observes that the most vulnerable groups
when it comes to child labour are often those subject to discrimination
and exclusion: girls, ethnic minorities and indigenous and tribal
peoples, those of low caste, people with disabilities, displaced persons
and those living in remote areas.
The good news is that child labour is declining around the world as
observed by the ILO with tougher laws around the world taking effect.
However, there is a new challenge and new fear - that thousands of
migrant children fleeing conflict zones could end up being trafficked
and abused. This problem has to be tackled soon.
Child labour will not go away overnight, until and unless all
countries take concrete action to end it. In fact, an ILO action plan
proposes that the International Labour Organization and its member
States continue to pursue the goal of the effective abolition of child
labour by committing themselves to the elimination of all worst forms of
child labour by 2016. It is doubtful whether this goal can be achieved
this year, but many countries have started work on achieving this goal.
There have been some success stories in ending child labour in
specific sectors - prior to the adoption of Law No. 22 of May 2005 on
the import, employment, training and participation of children in camel
racing, there were between 200 and 300 children from 6 to 13 years of
age (all from Sudan) used in camel racing and exposed to serious
injuries. It has noted that since the promulgation of Law No. 22 of
2005, and the adoption of a number of practical measures, there has been
no recourse by camel owners to using children as camel jockeys. These
are important victories on the road to a world without child labour - a
goal that all countries should be firmly committed to.