“Eleven-year-old Sima is a seasoned worker with five years of experience in brick making. She works 13 hours a day, six days a week at a kiln in Deh Saby, Afghanistan, alongside two younger sisters – aged five and 10 – and their father. The children work 10 to 15 hours a day, six days a week, 12 months a year. Few of them have ever attended school.” ILO has described brick making in Afghan kilns as “one of the worst forms of child labour.” The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that globally some 215 million children are trapped in child labor and more than half of these are exposed to the worst forms of child labor, including slavery and involvement in armed conflict, pointing to a major human rights challenge.
Today is the World Day against Child Labor. It is a day to remind us that there are children left behind who do not enjoy school or play but work to make a living day in day out. It’s not their choice. It’s circumstances or people forcing them into work. Even if school and work do not exclude one another the question is how much more energy and effort a poor child has to generate to keep up with both, how much more likely he or she is to give up school, how much more this child is exposed to abuse, exploitation and risk. Naroun, a 13 year old Cambodian girl, who worked for four years with her mother in the salt fields, has managed to keep up with both. The practice of a child working in Cambodia’s salt fields is an example of one of the worst forms of child labor.
ILO’s 2010 Global Report “Accelerating action against child labour” highlights that countries in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean regions have managed to reduce child labor, while it has increased in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, with one in four children engaged in child labor. ILO’s most recent policy note “Tackling child labour: From commitment to action” shows progress of action against child labor. The ILO’s child labor Conventions 138 concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour are among the most widely ratified of all the ILO Conventions. Of the ILO’s 185 member States, 88% have ratified the first and 95.1% the latter. But progress has been outweighed by a failure to translate commitments into practice. The largest gap between commitment and action is in the informal sector, where the majority of violations of fundamental labor rights occur.
Children in rural and agricultural areas, children of migrant workers and indigenous peoples, are most vulnerable to being caught in child labor. In the developing world these are also the children that are less likely to go to school or to complete basic education. Poverty is the single most important factor for children to be forced into labor, to not enroll into school or drop out early. Poverty and the lack of provision of basic services in rural and urban areas greatly affect any child’s or young person’s opportunity to grow, to live freely and without risk.
The ILO and UN Conventions against child labor all point out the importance of the right to education (see overview in pdf slides) making it the number one service to be provided for all children to protect them from abuse and exploitation within the larger social protection floor.
UNICEF points out in its key messages for Rio+20 “global commitment and action to protect children’s rights and enhance their wellbeing should be put at the center of sustainable development plans and strategies. […] A sustainable future requires that children have the opportunity to grow up healthy, well-educated, and protected from violence and neglect.”
The Global Partnership for Education’s mission is to provide quality education to all children and support its developing country partners to provide early childhood and basic education services to all their children. The Global Partnership believes that education is one of the most important investments a country can make in its people and its future and is critical to reducing poverty and inequality.
- ILO. June 2012. Stepping up the fight against child labour
- ILO. February 2012. Buried in Bricks.
- Understanding Children’s Work
- Global March against Child Labor
- 12to12 to End Child Labour. The Community Portal
- The only job for girls and boys is to go to school. Watch the video
- STOP CHILD LABOR: School is the best place to work