In 2002, the International Labour Organisation launched World Day Against Child Labour. Every year on June 12, governments, employers and workers focus on the plight of child labour in an effort to resolve the crisis and eliminate the need worldwide for any child to have to work.
A complex issue
More than 152 million children across the globe are still being forced to labour, a high percentage of these are in an agricultural setting in some of the world’s poorest communities. This equates to about one child in every four in the developing nations. The causes for child labour are complex and there is no quick fix to resolve them.
Child labour is, without doubt, exploitative but in poverty-stricken communities where every individual is struggling to survive, it is often a symptom of complicated societal needs rather than a direct act of cruelty. Ending child labour in these communities involves far-reaching changes often environmentally and politically.
In the meantime, positive action to assist children financially and emotionally enables them to foresee a brighter future with education and opportunities. This includes the work of organisations such as Compassion UK who operate a sponsor a child programme. The goal of such programmes is to provide financial support to allow children time for school and to develop a better life.
Child labour in developed economies
Around 12 million of the overall number of children currently in child labour is to be found in middle or upper-income countries. This figure tends to reflect older teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 and includes some European countries and the USA.
What is the difference between child labour and child slavery?
Child labour generally indicates work or occupation that deprives children of their childhood, future opportunities in life and their dignity. This definition is deemed to include activities which are harmful to the mental and physical development of a child. This clearly involves any interference or disruption to schooling and education whether long or short term and premature and permanent departure from education.
Many incidences of child labour in the developing world are sadly unavoidable, an inevitable outcome of communities trapped in grinding poverty. Compare this with child slavery which essentially is a deliberate act to profit or gain from a child or the use of a child. This includes the trafficking of children, forced employment such as manual work or prostitution, the recruitment into armed resistance forces and also debt bondage
Supporting the elimination of child labour
As well as directly supporting organisations that are out there working in the field like Compassion UK and many others, there are other ways that you can help in the elimination of child labour.
The supply chain of food and goods is complicated and often remote and opaque. Know where the products you buy come from and who has made them. Don’t support companies that use child labour. There is an organisation called Child Labor Free which aims to endorse brands and goods for sale with a mark which confirms they have been sourced and manufactured without the use of child labour at any point in the production process. This is a consumer-led group but it works hard to encourage businesses to join it and demonstrate the ethical production of their products.
You can share your knowledge and shopping habits easily online via social media. There are some well-known, international brands which still use child labour in their processes which many people are simply not aware of.
Is all child labour wrong?
Child labour is wrong per se but the reasons which surround it are multifarious and complicated. Whilst it might be trite to say that some children are simply the victims of circumstances, this is often not far from the truth. Eradication of child labour requires action on many different levels from the intent and strategies of global leaders and governments down to the simple consideration of the item you put in your shopping basket