Global March

World Day Against Child Labour 2007

These myths have to be broken

  • That children working in the field are learning a skill
  • That children using pesticides is just a task

That child labour in agriculture only exists in developing countries…..

These myths that have perpetuated for long , have to be broken for the sake of the children who are wasting there days and nights, proving that its not just a hobby or just helping their father or just a learning skill but its actually snatching their child hood.

Child Labour in agriculture has become a global phenomenon. It is found in all regions of the world. Of an estimated 218 million child labourers 70% of them are working in agriculture. Nine out of ten children in rural areas are working in agriculture or are involved in the similar activities. Many of the world’s child labourers in agriculture perform hazardous labour – work that can threaten their lives, limbs, health and general well-being. Agriculture is one of the three most dangerous sectors in which to work at any age, along with construction and mining in terms of work-related deaths and injuries, and this is especially true for children, whose lack of experience or training and still-developing bodies make them particularly vulnerable. It is found in both developed and developing countries and the trend to employ children in these fields has also become very common.

It is also a sector where many children are effectively denied education through factors which include lack of schools and teachers, lack of free education and so on.

Children become farm labourers around the world at an early age. Most statistical surveys only cover child workers aged 10 and above. Many children begin work at an earlier age, however. Rural children, in particular girls, tend to begin work young, at 5, 6 or 7 years of age.

In some countries, children under 10 are estimated to account for 20 per cent of child labour in rural areas.  According to ILO report 73.3% boys and 78.8% girls are involved in agriculture and animal husbandry. The work that children perform in agriculture is often invisible and unacknowledged because they assist their parents or relatives on the family farm or they undertake piecework or work under a quota system on larger farms or plantations, often as part of migrant worker families. Agriculture is historically and traditionally an under-regulated sector in many countries. This means that child labour laws – if they exist – are often less stringent in agricultural industries than in other industries. In some countries, adult and child workers in agriculture are not covered by or are exempt from safety and health laws covering other categories of adult workers.

Children are generally allowed to operate machinery and drive tractors at a younger age in agriculture than in other sectors. It degrades often harms and even kills children.


Some Glaring Facts


According to the study, agriculture accounts for largest proportion of child labour in Portugal (49.2%), followed by: commerce (12.6%); and manufacturing (12.6%, of which 3.8% in the textiles industry and 2.5% in the food industry).

In regional terms, Northern Portugal has most child labour, accounting for 51% of child labour, followed by the Centre of the country (25%) and Lisbon (10.5%).

In Portugal, minors mainly work in the summer, with August being the peak month, followed by July and September.

Child Labour and Cocoa Farming

In November 2001 the signatories, issued “the urgent need to identify and eliminate child labour in violation of International Labour Organisation (“ILO”) Convention 182 with respect to the growing and processing of cocoa beans and their derivative products”. They also recognized “the need to identify and eliminate practices in violation of ILO Convention 29 with equal urgency”. The 2001 protocol included a commitment to establish a joint international foundation “to oversee and sustain efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in the growing and processing of cocoa beans and their derivative products”.

The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) established under Swiss law in Geneva in 2002. In 2003, it began consulting a wide range of interested parties, from farmers to consumers, and, in 2004, a strategy was adopted and a program for action launched.

Despite cocoa companies’ repeated assurance that they would meet the target date, industry largely failed to meet its commitments and the deadline passed with the child labour situation virtually unchanged. Although lawmakers voiced their displeasure , cocoa companies faced no sanctions; instead, the industry negotiated an extended deadline giving it until July 2008 to implement a solution covering half of the cocoa-producing areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

While industry has specifically addressed the worst forms of child labour under ILO Convention No. 182 and forced labor under ILO Convention 29, it has not addressed other core labor rights in the agreement or in its activities, such as minimum age of employment under ILO Convention No. 138. Further, the industry-led initiative fails to call for concrete steps to ensure that farmers are getting a fair price for their product, which significantly impacts the use of child labour, as farmers are forced to reduce production costs and rely on the cheap labor of children.

Cotton is the major cash crop, where over one million children work each year to manually remove pests from cotton plants. Children sometimes operate motorized pumps that saturate cotton plants with pesticides. Half a dozen children may help carry the pump’s long hose, becoming heavily contaminated with pesticides in the process

Nearly 600,000 children work in the rural sector. Children are working in banana fields and packing plants. 90 % of child banana workers interviewed by HRW stated that they continued working while fungicides were sprayed from airplanes flying overhead. They described trying to protect themselves by hiding under banana leaves, covering their faces with their shirts, or placing banana cartons on their heads. One boy said, “I went under the packing plant roof until the (fumigation) plane left-less than an hour. I became intoxicated. My eyes were red. I was nauseous. I was dizzy. I had a headache. I vomited.”

United States
Estimated 300,000 children work as hired labourers in large-scale commercial agriculture, planting, weeding, and picking apples, cotton, cantaloupe, lettuce, asparagus, watermelons, chilies, and other crops.

There are 15 million child labourers working in agriculture. More than half, and possibly as many as 87 percent of these bonded child labourers work in agriculture, tending crops, herding cattle, and performing other tasks for their “masters.”

According to, Khairuzzaman Kamal  Executive Director, Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) estimates that nearly about 4 million children are involved with agriculture sector.  It has been observed that the whole family work as bonded labour in which younger children are also involved.

Sub-Saharan Africa
Is the region with the highest incidence of child labour and is the only region that experienced an increase to 49.3 million.

The number of children and youth aged 5-17 in the number of child labourers between 2000 and 2004, from 48 million trapped in hazardous work decreased by 26 percent.

West Africa
Around 284,000 children work in hazardous conditions in West Africa’s cocoa industry, and some 2,500 may have been trafficked, The report, released on 26 July, is the first comprehensive report to examine child labour on cocoa farms in West Africa. It examined child labour on 1,500 cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, which collectively produce 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa.

Industrial Revolution and child labour

Since 1788 when industrial revolution started, the burden to make profits was on children. To get more and more profit, children were used as cheap labour not only in factories but also in the production of the raw material, in agriculture. Starting from chocolate industry to textiles and food industry all are dependent on agriculture for raw materials.  The major reason for hiring children has nothing to do with economic efficiency. Children are easier to manage than adults – although less skilled, they are less aware of their rights, less troublesome, less complaining and more flexible – and ultimately expendable.

For some employers they constitute a reserve of casual labour to be hired and fired at will. When their labour is illegal, they and their parents are less likely to complain to the authorities for fear of losing whatever meager income they bring to their families.

Moreover, some employers genuinely consider that they are doing a favour to the children whom they employ by offering them work and income. Thus, declaring child labour to be illegal may in some cases have the perverse effect of depriving child workers of much of the protection provided by labour legislation to adults. This only serves to highlight the point that prohibition alone will not suffice. Simple bans on child labour are not successful if they are not supplemented by a range of other measures.

It has to be understood that it is not the responsibility of children to develop a country but it’s the responsibility of the country to develop a child. We need to put all the national and international legislation effectively.

Today there are many boycott calls by the NGO’s, civil societies and other organisations have raised concerned about the products assembled or otherwise manufactured in with child labour. Many ethical trading initiatives and consumer awareness programmes like Rugmark, International Cocoa Initiatives, have been successful in combating child labour but still a lot more has to be done.

The countries and cooperates should think of this issue seriously and abide by the agreements that they have made nationally and internationally. There should be proper monitoring system to check that there is no child labour used in the production of raw material as well as in any segment of supply chain.

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