Fighting Child Labour in Agriculture - More Must be Done

GLOBAL - The internationally agreed target of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016 will be missed if countries do not step up their efforts to combat child labour in agriculture, FAO has warned ahead of the World Day against Child Labour.
calendar icon 11 June 2012
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Worldwide 215 million children are child labourers, of whom around 130 million boys and girls between 5 and 17 work in agriculture, including livestock, fisheries, and forestry. Many of them are engaged in hazardous work. Only one in five child labourers is paid - most are unpaid family workers, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Pervasive poverty is both a main cause and consequence of child labour in rural areas.

Hazardous work often harms a child's health, safety or morals. A child working in fields where pesticides have been applied, staying up all night on a fishing boat, or carrying loads so heavy that they harm the development of the child's body - all these are far too common examples of hazardous work in agriculture.

"Child labour is a human rights abuse and is an obstacle to sustainable development of agriculture and food security," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

"Work that harms children's health and development can have long-lasting effects into adulthood, and child labour has been repeatedly shown to have a negative impact on education. Child labour also strongly undermines efforts to promote decent youth employment, a key element in revitalising agriculture around the world and reducing poverty," he added.

In 2006, governments, workers' and employers' organisations committed to eliminating the worst forms of child labour, including hazardous work, by 2016. In 2010, the international community has adopted the Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016, which highlights the predominance of child labour in agriculture.

According to FAO, action on child labour is often focused on international markets and value-chains for export, such as the cocoa and cotton industry, but the majority of child labourers in agriculture work in small-scale, family based agriculture, including food crop production, fishing, forestry and livestock.

"It is our joint responsibility to support poor rural families so children can go to school instead of working. Every child has the right to education," Mr Graziano da Silva added.

While agriculture remains an under-regulated sector in many countries and the problem of child labour is complex, individual countries are showing promise through strengthened commitment and forward-looking initiatives.

Charlotte Johnson

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