NO to child labour, YES to quality education!

Hundreds of millions of girls and boys throughout the world are engaged in work that deprives them of adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating their rights.

Jun 04, 2015

World Day Against Child Labour is held on June 12
Hundreds of millions of girls and boys throughout the world are engaged in work that deprives them of adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating their rights. Of these children, more than half are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as 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.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the first World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 as a way to highlight the plight of these children. Observed on June 12 , the Day is intended to serve as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labour and provides an opportunity to gain support from governments, civil society, schools, youth and women’s groups, as well as the media, in the campaign against child labour.

What is child labour?
Child labour is hard to define, and harder to measure. However, according to UNICEF, more than one in ten of the world’s children are involved, although in some countries, it’s as high as five in ten. UNICEF’s definition of a child labourer measures children who have been economically active for an hour or more each week, or done over 28 hours of ‘household chores’, and there are different measures for older children.

There’s a huge difference between children working and helping their families, and child labour — just as there’s a huge difference between taking out the rubbish in return for pocket money and doing household chores for 30 hours a week, meaning that attending school becomes difficult. This makes child labour a human rights issue. Child labourers work to earn money or spend most of their time on household chores from collecting water to looking after siblings, meaning that school work, playing with friends or even attending school often suffers.

Some types of work make useful, positive contributions to young people’s development. Work can help young people learn about responsibility, independence, and develop particular skills that will benefit them and the rest of society. Where families struggle to make ends meet in poorer countries, their work is a vital source of income that helps everyone in the family.

How many children are involved in child labour?
It’s estimated that 168 million children are involved worldwide. Ninety-eight million work in agriculture, with most of the rest (54 million) working in the service industry. Again, there’s a big difference between those young people who help out on their family’s farm a bit at the weekends so they can learn skills to grow food, and those who work day in day out on plantations, on the streets doing odd jobs, or even in factories.

The World Day Against Child Labour this year will focus particularly on the importance of quality education as a key step in tackling child labour. It is very timely to do so, as in 2015, the international community will be reviewing reasons for the failure to reach development targets on education, and will be setting new goals and strategies.

On this year’s World Day Against Child Labour we call 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.

Ensure access to quality education and investment in the teaching profession.
Education and training can be key drivers of social and economic development, and they require investment. In many countries however, the schools which are available to the poor are under-resourced. Wholly inadequate school facilities, large class sizes, and lack of trained teachers constrain rather than enable learning, and act as a disincentive to school attendance. For far too many children, the provision of education stops at primary level simply because of the physical absence of accessible schools, particularly in rural areas. This inevitably leads to children entering the labour force well before the legal minimum age for admission to employment.

Making progress- action required
Despite the challenges, some progress has been made and more progress is possible. There has been a downward trend in child labour over the past ten years and the numbers attending school have increased. However, much more needs to be done to end child labour. The urgent need now is to learn from where progress has been made, and apply the lessons learned to significantly accelerate action. Among the most important steps required are:

-- providing free, compulsory and quality education;
-- ensuring that all girls and boys have a safe and quality learning improvement;
-- providing opportunities for older children who have so far missed out on formal schooling, including through targeted vocational training programmes that also offer basic education support;
-- ensuring coherence and enforcement of laws on child labour and school attendance;
-- promoting social protection policies to encourage school attendance;
-- having a properly trained, professional and motivated teaching force, with decent working conditions based on social dialogue;
-- protecting young workers when they leave school and move into the workforce, preventing them being trapped in unacceptable forms of work. --

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