ILO/UNICEF ESTIMATE 2020
1 IN 10 CHILDREN in the world are engaged in child labour. Almost half are involved in dangerous forms of labour.
Approximately 70% of child labour cases are found in the agricultural industry, producing the raw materials that make up the things that we consume on a daily basis including chocolate, cotton, coffee, electronics like smart phones, to name a few. That is why ACE focuses on eliminating child labour in the agricultural sector, specifically cacao and cotton production in Ghana and India.
Since 2000, when the International Labour Organization began collecting data on global child labour, the number of children in labour has been on the decline, decreasing by 40% by 2017. That means that eliminating child labour is not an impossible task, it can be achieved and people do have the means to change the situation. However, numbers increased for the first time in 2020 as the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic - making action more critical than ever.
CHILD WORK V. CHILD LABOUR
Children under 18 who work are not necessarily child labourers.
According to the International Treaty on Child Labour, child labourers are those who are under 15 (under 14 in some countries) who work and are absent from compulsory education, as well as those who are under 18 who are involved in hazardous forms of work.
Child labour is prohibited by law, and interferes with the education and healthy growth of children.
This is the biggest reason why children work. To support their parents who are poor, or even work for free as indentured servants to pay off parents debts.
CULTURE & DEMAND
In some countries child labour is the norm. It is thought that children, and especially girls, do not need to go to school.
CHEAP & OBEDIENT
Children are easier to intimidate, control and pay less. In many cases, children are not paid at all.
VICIOUS ECONOMIC CYCLE
As consumers demands cheaper products, procurement costs of ingredients and workers salaries that are the first to be cut. People who are most affected are those in developing countries.
FAILURE OF LAWS
Despite international treaties, such as the Minimum Age Convention (1973), national laws in some countries prohibiting child labour can be vague and often are not enforced.
Under the age of 15, children who help out at home, or go to school and help with a family business after school or on holidays are not child labourers. Similarly, part-time work after school after the age of 15 does not constitute child labour.
Helping out at home and part-time work can be beneficial for children's socialisation and is called "child work" but this work should not be done at the expense of their education and safety.
DEFINING CHILD LABOUR
Child labour can be distinguished if any ONE of the following applies:
1. work that impedes access to education
2. work that impedes healthy development
3. work that is harmful and dangerous
4. work that exploits children
1. children under 14 are subject to compulsory education. Some children work while going to school but if the labour is too heavy it can become a burden and they tend to miss school or drop out. This is child labour.
2. Children are developing both physically and mentally, and labour which is physically demanding can adversely affect their growth. Carrying extremely heavy loads for a long time or working in the same posture for a long time may cause the spine or legs to bend. These kinds of labour can result in long-term psychological damage. This is child labour.
3. Children can get sick when made to work without protective equipment such as masks on farms where harmful pesticides have been sprayed or work long hours in poorly ventilated and unsanitary factories. They can inhale the chemicals or develop skin rashes. This is child labour.
4. Workers are supposed to work in a safe environment and receive wages as compensation for their work. When rewards and benefits are not commensurate to level of labour and if workers are unfairly treated, this is exploitation. As children can be more vulnerable than adults and have less of a voice, they can be more easily exploited. This includes being paid a lower wage and/or being subject to unfair treatment such as violence and abuse.
The use of children in forced labour, human trafficking, prostitution and pornography, war and criminal activity is considered the "worst forms of child labour" and is particularly exploitative. In these cases, it has been decided that children under the age of 18 must be protected regardless of the compulsory education age. This is child labour.
CHILD LABOUR BY GEOGRAPHY
CENTRAL & SOUTH ASIA
NORTHERN AMERICA & EUROPE
NORTHERN AFRICA &
EAST & SOUTH EAST ASIA
CHILD LABOUR BY INDUSTRY
Children are employed as workers in large plantations of coffee, tea, rubber, tobacco, etc., or their families produce cash crops such as cacao and cotton and food crops as poor farmers. This sector also includes mining and fisheries where gold and rare metals are mined. This can be particularly hazardous work.
Children work to ensure their families' survival.
Garment factories in Bangladesh, match manufacturing factories in India, and shrimp processing factories in Thailand and Myanmar are just some examples of child labour hubs. Child labour does not necessarily happen in factories alone, work can occur in the home such as sewing beads as decoration for clothes and sewing together soccer balls in India and Pakistan.
Services include children selling goods on the streets, cleaning windows in the car, carrying goods in the market, dismantling discarded electrical appliances, and working as domestic servants in the homes of others.
So much has been achieved in the past 30 years. Child labour is now clearly defined and banned by international treaties and most countries around the world have introduced laws that ban child labour.
The Convention of the Rights of the Child states that those under the age of 18 are defined as "children", who have the right to live, the right to grow, the right to be protected, and the right to participate. It recognises that all children are born with the same basic rights, regardless of country, region or family of birth.
As of August 2018, 171 of 187 ILO member countries have ratified ILO Convention No. 138 - the Minimum Age Convention (1973)
As of 2020, ALL 187 ILO member countries have ratified ILO Convention No. 182 - the Worst Form of Child Labour Convention (1999)
As of March 2017, 196 countries / regions have signed contracts to adhere to the UN Conventions of the Rights of the Child (1989)*
*the only non-contracted countries are the US
© Natsuki Yasuda/ Dialogue for People
The Minimum Age Convention (1973) states that it is only necessary to work after completing compulsory education. Dangerous work that can damage a workers health, safety, and morals can only begin at the age of 18 or from 16 years old if health, safety and morals are protected and appropriate vocational training is given.
The Worst Form of Child Labour Convention (1999) defines especially exploitative work for children and calls for the protection of children under the age of 18 who are involved in the worst forms of work.
(1) Forced labour, bonded labour, serfdom, child soldiers in conflict (forced conscription), trafficking
(2) Using children for prostitution and pornography
(3) Using children for criminal acts such as drug trafficking
(4) Forcing children into dangerous and harmful labour that impairs their health, safety, and morals and impedes the healthy growth of mind and body
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted by the United Nations in 1989) states that children under the age of 18 are children, and that children have the right to education and the right to be protected from all forms of abuse, including economic exploitation, violence and abuse. The basic human rights of children are specified in 54 articles.
The spotlight is on corporations to identify, resolve and mitigate human rights abuses, especially the use of child labour, in their supply chains.
Take a look at some of our corporate collaborations with Japanese chocolate & confectionary companies to see how cross-sector collaboration can have a significant impact or check out our Social Business Acceleration Program.
Inform yourself on the situation, buy from certified ethical businesses, advocate to your government or local businesses, donate to an organization you trust.
Take a look at our Action Board for some ideas on what we can do as individuals to work towards the elimination of child labour.