…Says 152m children in child labour worldwide.
By Victor Ahiuma-Young, reporting Geneva, Switzerland
THE International Labour Organisation, ILO, has asked Nigeria and other countries across the globe to do every possible end any form of child labour by the year 2025, lamenting no fewer than 152 million 152 million children aged 5 to 17 are in child labour worldwide.
Speaking Director-General Guy Ryder emphasised the need to prioritize programmes to end child labour by all governments.
Ryder, who was speaking at a panel on child labour at the on-going International Labour Conference, ILC, in Geneva, promised to intensify collaborative action with governments around the world to fight child labour.
According to him, there was need for urgent action to tackle the economic root causes of child labour, pointing out that attention needed to be paid not only to global supply chains, but also unpaid family work in agriculture.
He noted that some 152 million children aged 5 to 17 were in child labour worldwide; stressing that between 2012 and 2016, there was “almost no reduction in the number of children aged 5 to 11 in child labour, and the number of these most vulnerable, youngest children in hazardous work actually increased. These children typically begin child labour at the age of six or seven and they commonly perform hazardous work as they get older.”
The event in Geneva also marked the 20th anniversary of the Global March against Child Labour, which culminated in June 1998, when hundreds of marchers, including children, took to the stage at the International Labour Conference, where delegates paved the ground for the adoption in 1999 of ILO Convention No. 182 on “Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour.”
Contributing, Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist and Nobel peace prize laureate, said much still remained to be done, saying “If the children are still trapped in the international supply chains, if the children are still enslaved, if the children are still sold and bought like animals – sometimes for less than the price of animals – to work in the fields and farms, and shops and factories, or for households as domestic workers, this is a blot on humanity.”
Similarly, Basu Rai, from Nepal, who had been the youngest of the protesters (marchers) to reached Geneva in 1998, said: “Still there are 152 million children who are languishing in a kind of slavery. So this is the time to act collectively.”
Many delegates fought hard to hold back their emotions as Zulema Lopez recounted her days as a child labourer in the United States.
According to her: “At the age of seven … it was normal for me to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning, put on my shoes and my T-shirt and go to work in the hot sun, burning, 20- to 30-pound buckets of cucumbers next to me, trying to make ends meet.”
Sue Longley, General Secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations, IUF, spoke of the importance of keeping a strong focus on agriculture, which is where about 70 per cent of child labour is.
Nazrene Mannie, from the Board of Business Unity in South Africa, highlighted the difficulty of tackling child labour when it takes place in family farms or enterprises, often hidden from public view.
This year’s World Day Against Child Labour also seeks to promote safety and health for young workers. Speaking on that topic, Mariam Kamissoko, of the National Social Security fund in Cote d’Ivoire, pointed out that the rate of accidents is higher among youth than among older workers.