By Negin Amini, World Vision Youth Advocate
An estimated 160 million children are involved with child labour
. Within that, about 79 million child labourers work in dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs. Most of these children are between 5 and 11 years of age. There were many laws passed against such dangerous forms of child labour in countries like the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, and France. Although global governments and economies have improved their efforts in tackling child labour and its long-lasting negative effects on children, there is still much to be done.
For the everyday Canadians, the first step to address this global problem right at home is to be educated on the issue - which begins with finding reliable resources. By separating facts from myths, we can take more effective action to address child labour concerns to government and corporation authorities.
Myth 1: Every form of child labour is bad.
No, the nature of the work that children are involved in is different. Children and teenagers can be employed in jobs that are not degrading their mental and physical health. These types of jobs not only help their families financially, but they contribute to the personal growth of children. In contrast, jobs that encourage children to drop out of school and take part in dangerous, degrading, and dirty working settings are considered the worst forms of child labour. These jobs harm children’s mental and physical health and prevent them from having a decent education, which is every child’s right to have access to.
Myth 2: Child labour is an inevitable consequence of growth and development.
In truth, child labour is a barrier to children’s growth and development. It hinders them from achieving their goals and becoming contributing members of their community. Placing children in dangerous working environments delays economic development, which creates a vicious cycle of poverty for them and their families. In addition, child labour is considered non-skilled work. With many adults employed in non-skilled work as well, this could increase competition between children and adults seeking work. Child and forced labour also has real economic implications. Forced labour exploitation generates $51 billion (USD) in illegal profits
per year, and the cost of child labour to the global economy amounts to 6.6 per cent of global Gross National Income
in lost potential growth.
Myth 3: The most prevalent type of child labour is factory labour.
Most media discussing child labour often focuses on the fashion industry or garment factories as being one of the most prevalent industries of child labour. However, the majority of child labourers–about 71 per cent – work in the agricultural sector
According to the ILO (International Labour Organization), about 112 million children
are currently working in crop production, cultivation, forestry, aquaculture and harvesting raw materials. The agricultural sector is hazardous because children are in frequent contact with harmful, toxic pesticides that can lead to the development of respiratory and neurological disorders. They are in contact with dangerous tools without adequate safety training, and there is no protective clothing to shield them from the environment. For instance, children are often affected by fungicides sprayed from airplanes down onto the lands where they were working which causes them to experience symptoms like nausea, fever and dizziness. They would try to hide under banana leaves or cover their faces with shirts to shield themselves from being exposed to the chemicals, and some even place banana cartons on their heads. Another threat that many children face in their working settings is abuse.
Myth 4: Child Labour is unstoppable.
The number of children involved in child labour has gone down from 245.5 million in 2000 to 151.6 million in 2016
. For 20 years, child labour was in a decline until the pandemic reversed the progress in 2020. The ILO’s data illustrates that by the end of 2022, there will be 8.9 million children
joining child labour due to the poverty driven by the pandemic.
However, this is not irreversible. These alarming data call for coordination and cooperation between governments, development organizations and corporations to change business practices to ensure that children are living in safer communities with an increased focus on their well-being. Many countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, and France have adopted laws to fight the worst forms of child labour. Countries need to be united in addressing the root causes of child labour and driving the change that will not only save the current generation of children but future generations as well. It is our responsibility to protect children now and for years to come.