Child Labour: A Dangerous Trend

<strong>Child Labour: A Dangerous Trend</strong>

There are disturbing reports on the status of child labour globally even as the picture paints a worsening trend which requires more than lip service by countries that have merely formalised the Child Right Act.

In a recent report, the International Labour Organisation, ILO, highlighted that more than 152m children or nearly one in 10 children globally are victims of forced labour; a scenario that presents a gloomy status.

Though the ILO research conducted in conjunction with the Walk Free Foundation showed some progressive decline by 94m in the statistics of child labour projection since 2000, the number of these children barely old enough to fend for themselves not to talk of engaging in rigorous economic activities is cause for global worry.

According to the ILO, 73m children are engaged in hazardous labour that “directly endangers their health, safety and moral development”.

Further details indicated that some 88m are boys; 64m are girls, while children ranging from 5 years to 11 years old make up the largest group of minors who are engaged in hazardous work. Besides, more than a third or 36m of the children between ages 5 and 14 have had no formal basic education.

Unfortunately, one in five of these hapless children can be found in Africa, which accounts for both the largest number of 72m and the greatest proportion, 47%, of all children in child labour across the world. According to the chart, Asia and the Pacific region account for 62m, Americas – 11m, Europe and Central Asia 6 million, and the Middle East – 1 million children, in various forms of forced child labour.

Further, it was revealed that more than two-thirds of these children are working on family farms or in family businesses with 71% overall employed in agriculture. The organisation also noted that nine out of every ten of these children live in Africa, Asia and the Pacific region, with sub-Saharan Africa experiencing a rise in the phenomenon between 2012 and 2016.

Notwithstanding the grim statistics globally, we do not have any specifics on the percentage of forced child labour in Nigeria, but given by the large number of hawkers in Nigerian cities, and the over 10m out-of-school kids, according to a recent UN data, it may not be out of place to state that the larger numbers of African children in forced labour are located here.

Several factors including closure of businesses and ultimately massive unemployment, the Boko Haram insurgency which dislocated people from their ancestral homes; causing a shutdown of their businesses and schools, perennial communal clashes involving farmers/herders and other disasters and conflicts, all conspire to make our children vulnerable.

It is imperative for us to identify with ILO’s advocacy for global partnership to tackle the worrisome forced labour trend through adoption of more effective, pragmatic social and other economic empowerment relief programmes that can tackle some of these concerns raised.

As rightly observed in the study, resources needed to tackle the problems far exceed the funding by various domestic governments.
These poor responses make international resource mobilisation necessary to enhance the war against child labour.

Indeed, it has not been a hopeless situation as some efforts are being made domestically. These include illegalising hawking and begging by minors, the free school feeding programme, progressive work to restore peace and facilitate the return of IDPs to their respective ancestral homes, and the current calm in the Niger Delta among other initiatives aimed at creating conducive environment for stable socio-economic engagements. We call for more concerted efforts to mitigate our unenviable status.

The epileptic power supply in the country which has had adverse effects on micro and macro businesses thereby forcing several of them to close shops needs to be addressed urgently. The few that manage to operate have whittled down their workforce, while others are barely able to meet their monthly financial obligations to their staff, all of which have imposed severe pressure on the masses.

As projected by the Sustainable Development Programme ,SDP, targeting the eradication of all forms of child labour by 2025, we must engage multi-sectoral approach and by engaging international partners to achieve same.

We bring to bear here, the immutable words of legendary Nelson Mandela that; “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children” even as appreciate the position of the National Scientific Council on the developing child, which noted that when a country invests wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. Children are our future!

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