COVID-19: Protect children from child labour, now more than ever

12Jun 2020
Editor
The Guardian
COVID-19: Protect children from child labour, now more than ever

Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive.

This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families; they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that: is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and/or interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

The worst forms of child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age. Whether or not particular forms of “work” can be called “child labour” depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed and the objectives pursued by individual countries. The answer varies from country to country, as well as among sectors within countries.

World Day Against Child Labour on June 12, this year will focus on the impact of crisis on child labour. The COVID-19 health pandemic and the resulting economic and labour market shock are having a huge impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

Unfortunately, children are often the first to suffer. The crisis can push millions of vulnerable children into child labour. Already, there are an estimated 152 million children in child labour, 72 million of which are in hazardous work. These children are now at even greater risk of facing circumstances that are even more difficult and working longer hours.

This year, the World Day will be conducted as a virtual campaign and is being organised jointly with the Global March Against Child Labour  and the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture (IPCCLA) .

The World Day Against Child Labour is an International Labour Organization (ILO)-sanctioned event first launched in 2002 aiming to raise awareness and activism to prevent child labour. It was spurred by ratifications of ILO Convention on the minimum age for employment and ILO Convention on the worst forms of child labour.

The World Day Against Child Labour, which is held every year on June 12, is intended to foster the worldwide movement against child labour in any of its forms.

The International Labour Organisation the United Nations body that regulates the world of work, launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 in order to bring attention and join efforts to fight against child labour. This day brings together governments, local authorities, civil society and international, workers and employers organisations to point out the child labour problem and define the guidelines to help child labourers.

According to ILO's data, hundreds of millions of girls and boys throughout the world are involved in work that deprives them of receiving an adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating this way their rights. Of these children, more than half are exposed to the worst forms of child labour. These worst forms of child labour include work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.