Child Labour in Agriculture
12 June 2007
This year on 12 June, World Day Against Child Labour focuses on the elimination of child labour in agriculture. Worldwide, agriculture is the sector where the largest percentage of working children is found – nearly 70 percent. Over 132 million girls and boys aged 5 to 14 years old often work from sun up to sun down on farms and plantations, planting and harvesting crops, spraying pesticides, and tending livestock.
Child labour, according to International Labour Organization (ILO)conventions, is work that harms children’s well-being and hinders their education, development and future livelihoods. When children have to work long hours in the fields, their ability to attend school or skills training is limited, preventing them from gaining education that could help lift them out of poverty in the future. Girls are particularly disadvantaged as they often undertake household chores following work in the fields. Moreover, agriculture is one of the three most dangerous occupations to work in along with mining and construction, in terms of fatalities, accidents and ill health.
However, not all work that children undertake in agriculture is bad for them. or would qualify as work to be eliminated under the ILO Minimum Age Convention No. 138 or the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182. Tasks appropriate to a child’s age and that do not interfere with a child’s schooling and leisure time can be a normal part of growing up in a rural environment. Indeed, many types of work experience for children can be positive, providing them with practical and social skills for work as adults. Improved self-confidence, self-esteem and work skills are attributes often found inyoung people engaged in some aspects of farm work.
The ILO, especially through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), is now working with international agricultural organizations on the elimination of child labour in agriculture, especially hazardous child labour. These organisations are currently the:
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
- International Fund on Agricultural Development (IFAD);
- International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR);
- International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP – representing farmers/employers and their organisations)
- International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF – representing workers and their organizations).
These international organizations represent an important conduit to the national level because of their close contacts with national ministries or departments of agriculture, agricultural extension services, farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, agricultural producer organizations, agricultural research bodies and so on.
This new partnership strengthens the global movement for the elimination of child labour and will have a real impact on the ground.