Today is World Day Against Child Labour, an initiative of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) in the International Labour Organization (ILO). This year’s focus is on the importance of quality education as a key step in tackling child labour around the world. According to the IPEC, “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.”
The IPEC calls 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.
What is child labour?
Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. Children and adolescents can benefit from tasks such as helping with household chores, assisting in the family business outside of school hours and on weekends. It becomes problematic when the work children are made to do “deprives them of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. Generally speak.”
“Child labour” refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, and interferes with their education 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. Whether or not particular forms of “work” can be called “child labour” depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed and the objectives pursued by individual countries.
Last June, Labour Minister Derrick Kellier announced that an estimated 16,240 Jamaican children are involved in child labour. Here are some more numbers from around the world:
- Global number of children in child labour has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million children. More than half of them, 85 million, are in hazardous work (down from 171 million in 2000).
- Asia and the Pacific still has the largest numbers (almost 78 million or 9.3 per cent of child population), but Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour (59 million, over 21 per cent.)
- There are 13 million (8.8 per cent) of children in child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the Middle East and North Africa there are 9.2 million (8.4 per cent).
- Agriculture remains by far the most important sector where child labourers can be found(98 million, or 59 per cent), but the problems are not negligible in services (54 million) and industry (12 million) – mostly in the informal economy.
- Child labour among girls fell by 40 per cent since 2000, compared to 25 per cent for boys.
Jamaica has adopted two of the ILO’s core Conventions relating to child labour: Convention No. 138 on minimum age (1973), and Convention No. 182 on the worst forms on child labour (1999).
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