Hazardous child labour
According to the 2010 Global Report on Child Labour by the ILO, an estimated is that 115 million children are involved in hazardous work. This is work that by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm children’s health, safety or morals. Children working in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to such risks and the problem is global, affecting industrialised as well as developing countries.
Hazardous work is among the worst forms of child labour which the international community has targeted for elimination by 2016. The need for urgent action in order to reach this target date was at the heart of discussions at the Global Child Labour Conference held in The Hague, the Netherlands, in May 2010 which led to the unanimous acclamation of the Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016, known as “Roadmap 2016”. Global March was a committed partner in the discussions to develop the Roadmap and remains equally committed to its implementation and follow-up across all economic sectors as part of a broader effort to revitalise the worldwide movement against child labour.
The ILO and Global March hope that the 2011 World Day Against Child Labour will turn a global spotlight onto hazardous child labour and reinforce the call for urgent action to tackle the problem. However, it is also time for these calls which are renewed each year to become meaningful and show results. Global March is concerned that Roadmap 2016 and its follow-up are not receiving the attention and resources required to bring about increased action and sustainable social change.
Global March activities in 2011
“As a mark of our commitment to Roadmap 2016, we are planning two major international events in 2011,” said Global March Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi. “The first of these will be on 11 May, the first anniversary of Roadmap 2016, when we will hold an international consultation on child labour in the global garment-manufacturing sector. The second to be held in Morocco in October 2011 will focus on the more entrenched problem area, child labour in agriculture. Most child labourers are found in this sector and until and unless we put in place sustainable solutions to eliminate child labour in this vast and complex industry, then Roadmap 2016 will surely fail in its mission.”
He went on: “With the incredible challenges and difficulties that are facing the world today – and the terrible unfolding situation in Japan is an example of this – poor, vulnerable and marginalised children need us today more than ever before. We all know the end of child labour is possible and we call on national governments and the international community alike to commit themselves to a strong and decisive course of national and international action, supported by adequate national and international development resources and coherent policies and programmes in which child labour is mainstreamed across all development goals.”
New ILO Report on Children in Hazardous Work
Geneva, 10th June 2011: To coincide with the 2011 World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June and its theme of hazardous work, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has launched a new report on the issue which underscores what is already known about hazardous child labour, what can be done to tackle this issue and what must be done given the urgency of the situation. Around 115 million of the world’s 215 million child labourers are involved in hazardous work and, on 12 June this year, the ILO has called for urgent action to halt the practice.
The report, “Children in hazardous work: what we know, what we need to do”, cites studies from both industrialised and developing countries indicating that every minute of every day, a child labourer somewhere in the world suffers a work-related accident, illness or psychological trauma.
The report also says that although the overall number of children aged 5 to 17 in hazardous work declined between 2004 and 2008, the number aged 15-17 actually increased by 20 per cent during the same period, from 52 million to 62 million.
ILO Director-General calls for prioritisation of child labour
Speaking during the commemoration of the World Day, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said: “Despite important progress over the last decade, the number of children in child labour worldwide – and particularly in hazardous work – remains high … The persistence of child labour is a clear indictment of the prevailing model of growth. Tackling work that jeopardises the safety, health or morals of children must be a common and urgent priority.”
The ILO, Global March and others involved in tackling child labour have been sounding the warning bell for some time that efforts to eliminate child labour have been slowing down. There is a very real concern that the global economic crisis is further undermining progress toward the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016, not only because of the impact of the crisis on development funding, but also because the fallout is hitting developing economies hard and worsening situations of poverty, discrimination and social exclusion .As always in these instances, it is the vulnerable and marginalised who suffer most, particularly children.
Occupational safety and health for young workers
The report acts as a further wake-up call for the international community, calling for a renewed effort for countries to target child labour through effective public service policies and programmes, particularly education. The ILO Child Labour Conventions are very clear on interventions by ratifying governments and the roles and responsibilities of the social partners and civil society. Not only does this involve ensuring that children below the minimum age of employment are not working and are in school, but that children above the minimum age need to be protected in the workplace to ensure that they are not involved in hazardous work. This requires training and organising young workers so that they are aware of risks, rights and responsibilities in the workplace.
The report reminds readers of the severe impact exposure to hazards can have on children, whose bodies and minds are still developing late into teenage years. It also examines in detail six economic sectors: crop agriculture, fishing, domestic service, mining and quarrying, and street and service industries. The study notes that the problem of children in hazardous work is not confined to developing countries and evidence from the USA and Europe also points to a high vulnerability of youth to workplace accidents.
Child labour can be eliminated
There are positive messages in the report as it shows that there has been some tangible success stories in removing younger children from hazardous work, as well as in reducing the number of girls caught in this worst form of child labour. The report is divided into three parts. The first provides a general overview of the issue, including definitions, the numbers of children affected and why children require special protection. The second part considers the research evidence regarding the problem and positive initiatives in addressing it. The third and final part puts together a conceptual framework that aims to show what a coordinated, comprehensive effort to stop hazardous work of children should look like by recommending that a life-cycle approach be used. This involves a stronger focus on ensuring that education and training policies prepare children for work life so as to achieve an effective school-to-work transition. It also requires that when adolescents move into the labour force there are adequate safeguards for their safety and health. The report stresses that addressing hazardous work by children is not only a technical issue. Major and sustainable progress requires public policies that address the root causes of child labour: tackling poverty, ensuring children have access to education and providing a social protection floor which protects the vulnerable.
In closing, this new ILO report underlines that the international community is at a critical juncture in meeting the target of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016. There are tools and interventions available to address hazardous child labour that have been tried and tested over time in different countries, for example, wider awareness of international labour standards, laws and regulations, education policies, enterprise policies and closer monitoring of supply chains. Given the challenge of removing 115 million children from hazardous work, the ILO highlights the importance of setting a clear strategy for moving forward and outlines three broad areas of response in this regard:
preventing younger children from becoming engaged in hazardous work;
protecting older children in the workplace;
strengthening the underlying policy framework.
Urgency means now
Commenting on the launch of the new ILO report, Global March Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi said: “We welcome the ILO’s report on hazardous child labour and we hope that this will further reinforce the messages that were sent out through the ILO’s Global Child Labour report last year and the adoption of Roadmap 2016, not only at the Global Child Labour Conference in The Hague in May 2010, but also by the ILO’s own Governing Body in November 2010. Global March is extremely concerned that the urgency expressed in these documents and political statements of intent has not led to greater follow-up and investment. How much longer can we talk of urgency and acceleration of action? These children cannot wait.”
He continued: “As this report clearly points, there is so much we know about what works and how to ensure sustainable change with policy coherence at the top of that list. Unless there is an accelerated effort, underpinned by political will, to work towards the elimination of worst forms of child labour, then the goal of 2016 will not be reached. This is unthinkable – hazardous child labour by its very definition refers to children working in extreme danger, including of losing their lives – we cannot and must not fail these children. We once again call on all governments, the international community and donor organisations to turn their full attention to this development challenge and to realise this critical development goal.”
To visit the ILO’s web pages dedicated to events relating to the World Day Against Child Labour 2011, including press statements, videos, campaign materials and stories from different countries, click here
To download a copy of the ILO’s hazardous child labour report in English, French and Spanish, click here
Possible action for members and partners
In ratifying ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, governments undertake, in collaboration with social partners and civil society, to establish lists of hazardous child labour in their countries that must be prioritised for urgent remedial action. In this respect, Global March urges members and partners to consider the following possible areas of action in respect of hazardous child labour to mark this year’s World Day:
To find out if a list of hazardous child labour has been established by the government and social partners and whether this list is up-to-date or needs to be revised. This information can be obtained from the government, from trade union confederations and through National Steering Committees on Child Labour where these exist. If the list needs to be revised, advocacy action could be organised to ensure that this review is undertaken as soon as possible and that the hazardous list is disseminated throughout the country for follow-up.
To assess national and international resources and programmes dedicated to tackling the incidence of hazardous child labour and working towards its reduction and ultimate elimination. Armed with this data, members and partners could develop and implement advocacy and related action to either mobilise further resources to target hazardous child labour and/or to assess impact and sustainable change.
To develop and implement awareness-raising campaigns on hazardous child labour, targeting different stakeholder groups and the general public, particularly those communities at risk of child labour.
To recognise and support the important work of trade unions in conjunction with employers and state labour inspection systems in ensuring that working conditions meet ILO health and safety standards.
To develop advocacy campaigns to call on governments to acknowledge the cross-cutting nature of child labour and to ensure a coherent, well-resourced and multi-faceted child labour elimination programme that promotes education for all, decent work and adequate social protection as a minimum.
To ensure that children below the minimum age of employment are in school and benefiting from free, good quality public education and that youth of legal working age are working in safe conditions that meet occupational safety and health standards.
Sustainable action to reduce and eliminate child labour needs to also focus on the promotion of decent and productive work for youth and adults. Parents who benefit from decent working conditions, including a living wage, would not need to send their children to work rather than school to augment family income.
For further information
Global March welcomes the launch of this year’s World Day campaign and its important theme of hazardous child labour and echoes the call for support by the ILO in asking its members and partners to:
Forward this information to other organisation in their networks and mobilise strong support for the World Day.
Organise an event to mark the World Day.
Issue a media release in support of the World Day.
Include a link to the World Day web page on their web sites.
Send copies of media messages and reports and photographs of events and activities to firstname.lastname@example.org so that Global March might promote the action of its members and partners on its web site.
The ILO’s World Day web page contains further information on the 2011 World Day theme and key messages. In addition, various promotional materials, including posters and educational documentation, will be added to the site in the weeks building up to 12 June 2011. These materials will assist members and partners in their activities and actions before, during and after the World Day.
Therefore, Global March members and partners are urged to visit the ILO site as follows:
For English, click here
For French, click here
For Spanish, click here
Please support the 2011 World Day Against Child Labour!