Wanted: Global action plan to eliminate child labour

01Feb 2020
The Guardian
Wanted: Global action plan to eliminate child labour

Child labour refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful. Such exploitation is prohibited by legislation worldwide,-

-although these laws do not consider all work by children as child labour; exceptions include work by child artists, family duties, and supervised training.

Child labour has existed to varying extents throughout history. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, many children aged 5–14 from poorer families worked in Western nations and their colonies alike. These children mainly worked in agriculture, home-based assembly operations, factories, mining, and services such as news boys—some worked night shifts lasting 12 hours. With the rise of household income, availability of schools and passage of child labour laws, the incidence rates of child labour fell.  

In the world's poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in child labour, the highest number of whom  29 per cent  live in sub-Saharan Africa.  In 2017, four African nations  Mali, Benin, Chad and Guinea-Bissau  witnessed over 50 per cent of children aged 5–14 working.  Worldwide agriculture is the largest employer of child labour.  The vast majority of child labour is found in rural settings and informal urban economies; children are predominantly employed by their parents, rather than factories.  Poverty and lack of schools are considered the primary cause of child labour.  

Globally the incidence of child labour decreased from 25 pc to 10 pc  between 1960 and 2003, according to the World Bank.  Nevertheless, the total number of child labourers remains high, with UNICEF and ILO acknowledging an estimated 168 million children aged 5–17 worldwide were involved in child labour in 2013.

In the same vein, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has set forth a new strategy to fight child labour in tobacco growing countries in Africa where US$ 4.8million will be spent.

This was revealed recently by the director of advocacy and engagement for elimination of child labour in tobacco growing foundation (ECLT), Nicholas McCoy in his release to global agriculture stakeholders.

He said through this approach Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia will get US$ 1.6million each and their governments, workers, employers’ organisations and companies will be engaged to address the root causes, deficits and hazardous works to tobacco growers.

McCoy clarified that approach will help vulnerable children and young people to go to school hence acquire knowledge and skills and farmers will be trained to make safe agricultural activities.

We hope that this strategy will also help lawmakers and authorities to strengthen national action plans and policies on child labour hence protect children in areas where tobacco is grown and beyond.

We are also told that strategy will strengthen and sustain collaborative global efforts to support the 40 million farmers and families who depend on tobacco growing for a living in southern and eastern Africa.

The set-forth strategy will bring together governments, workers, employers’ and the private sector to promote strong government policy and multi-stakeholder cooperation.

In addition to the ILO’s funding commitment,  the organisation will continue mobilising sustainable sources of funding from the public and private sectors with proper safeguards in place.

The 4 African countries have an opportunity to play not only to benefit farmers, workers and their families but also in shaping a global intervention model, including services and investment.

The 2019 Kampala technical meeting  agreed that tobacco is a legal crop which sustains livelihood of millions of people hence requires multi-stakeholders’ collaboration to recurrent improvement.

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