THE EDITOR: On Tuesday we will observe World Day Against Child Labour on the theme “Generation safe and healthy.” Pope Francis has lamented the fact that “tens of millions of children are forced to work in degrading conditions and are victims of slavery and abuse, harassment and discrimination.
“I truly hope that the international community will extend children’s access to social protection to eradicate this curse. We all need to renew our commitment, especially families, to protect the dignity of every boy and girl and to offer them the opportunity to grow in a healthy environment. A peaceful childhood allows children to look at life and the future with confidence.”
The UN reminds us that “Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls on the global community to: ‘Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.’
“The returns on the investment in ending child labour are incalculable. Children who are free from the burden of child labour are able to fully realise their rights to education, leisure, and healthy development, in turn providing the essential foundation for broader social and economic development, poverty eradication, and human rights.”
Poverty and child labour are inextricably linked. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) states that child labour is “often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
“It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
“In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age.”
According to the ILO, “worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment. Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour. Almost half of all 152 million children victims of child labour are aged 5-11 years; 42 million (28 per cent) are 12-14 years old; and 37 million (24 per cent) are 15-17 years old. Hazardous child labour is most prevalent among the 15-17-year-olds. Nevertheless up to a fourth of all hazardous child labour (19 million) is done by children less than 12 years old.”
Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls. Fifty-eight per cent of all children in child labour and 62 per cent of all children in hazardous work are boys. Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic child labour.
“Child labour is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71 per cent) ...; 17 per cent in services; and 12 per cent in the industrial sector, including mining ... Whilst child labour takes many different forms, a priority is to eliminate without delay the worst forms of child labour as defined by Article 3 of ILO Convention No 182 ...”
The 2014 report by the US Bureau of International Labour Affairs on Child Labour and Forced Labour in TT states, inter alia: “Research found no evidence of programs to specifically address child labour in agriculture or the worst forms of child labour in commercial sexual exploitation.” The report lists suggested actions that would “advance the elimination of child labour ... in TT.”
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