Eradicating Child Labour — Where Are We Right Now?

“When A Child Has No Hope, A Nation Has No Future”.

These are the words of Zell Miller, a former United States Senator from Georgia. Many other world leaders have also come forward at various points in history and still continue to do so to stress on how important it is to educate a child and give them a good upbringing. They all do this for a reason. They do this in an attempt to put an end to the silent yet prevalent evil in our society which steals hope and dreams from our children — the practice of child labour.

Child labour, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), is “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and is damaging to their physical and mental development”. Basically, involving children in economic activities and denying them the opportunity to attend school, or hinders with their mental, physical or social development counts as child labour.

Child labour had been a popular practice and norm in many parts of the world and the origins of the same can be traced back to the 1800s. Despite various laws, legal protection, protests, acts and much more, the issue still lurked in various nooks and corners of the world.According to the report published by UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and ILO, in the year 2020, the global progress on child labour has stalled for the first time.

At the beginning of 2020, there were 160 million children — 63 million girls and 93 million boys exposed to child labour across the globe. This is a shocking figure when we see that it accounts to almost 1 in every 10 children. Among this 160 million, 79 million children are directly engaged in hazardous jobs that impact their health, safety and moral development. In addition to this, the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus is likely to push millions of children into child labour again. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest frequency and number of children engaged in child labour. By highest number, we mean almost 86.6 million children. The numbers are indeed alarming.

Shocking Revelations and Concerns

From the study conducted by UNICEF and ILO, we come across some tough facts which might seem ridiculous and hard to believe but are what is happening in the society. Some of the major facts the study revealed are as follows:

● Without proper mitigation measures in place, 8.9 million children will likely be engaged in child labour by the end of 2022

● The pandemic is a major cause for concern, as it raised the number of children living in low-income homes by an estimated 142 million, bringing the total number of children living in poverty to 582 million.Their families have lost jobs and money, had remittances curtailed, and have been hit by a slew of other setbacks. In such circumstances, a large body of evidence affirms that families may turn to child labour as a coping mechanism.

● Over one third of children in child labour are out of school.

● Most children in child labour work within their own family unit. It is also important to note that a significant share of child labour within the family is hazardous. Almost 72% of all child labour takes place in families.

● Also, most child labour occurs in the agricultural sector.

The problem at hand is large. This evil has occupied a predominant stance in our society and eradicating it might seem like a Herculean task. Looking ahead, some major suggestions put forth by experts on tackling this issue are as follows:

● There is an urgent need to create a balance between tackling the issue alongside fighting the pandemic. Immediate steps need to be adopted for the same.

● In the face of escalating crises, wars, and disasters, special attention should be paid to the increased risk of child labour.

● Risks of child labour in domestic and global supply chains need to be addressed.

As companies are getting recognized for their efforts on sustainability and doing responsible businesses, more and more companies are now introducing a lot of policies which help them operate more ethically and help them be more responsible socially. Companies take to addressing various social or environmental issues for the same like education, child labour, pollution etc.

Coming to our case at hand, here is an example of how Nestle is contributing to tackling child labour in the cocoa sector. They partnered with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) for the same.

Nestle strives to ensure that cocoa is cultivated, sourced, and managed responsibly across their supply chain, believing that this is the right thing to do for everyone — from cocoa farmers to chocolate consumers throughout the world.A key part of their so called “Nestle Cocoa Plan” was to address the issue of child labour. In 2012, they became the first company in the industry to introduce a comprehensive Child Labour Monitoring System (CLMS). As of 2019, the CLMS has covered almost 78,580 children, making a difference in their lives. Below is a glimpse of what exactly the CLMS is.

Child Labour Monitoring System

One of the best means of tackling child labour is to see to it that it does not happen. For this, we need a proper monitoring system in place. Observing work locations on a regular basis is one of the most effective ways to combat child labour. Child labour monitoring (CLM) is an active intervention method against child labour that works at both the policy and programme levels upstream and downstream.

CLM’s primary duty is to monitor, identify, and refer child labourers to appropriate resources. Here is how it works:

The entire process can be explained in 6 major steps which are as follows:

  1. Home Visits

The Community Liaison People (CLP) visit the households and farms of all the coop members to raise awareness of child labour and conduct surveys. They observe the people, talk to them, understand their pains and gains and compile the data.

  1. Identification

A CLP, in the due course of their home visits, comes across and identifies the children at risk of doing hazardous work and they make a note of the same.

  1. Database

The data collected through the home visits and the analysis done is then entered into their database via a mobile application.

  1. Follow — Up

The situation is discussed between the respective families and the CLP, who explains to them what children are not allowed to do and why it is so.

  1. Remediation

In the remediation stage, help is provided to the child, family or community as deemed appropriate. The CLP then visits the family on a regular basis to see if the child has stopped doing hazardous work.

  1. Measurement

After all the first five steps have been meticulously carried out, they measure the effectiveness, i.e, the number of children who have been prevented from entering child labour or have stopped doing hazardous work.

By putting such effective measures into practice, we can, as a community, inch closer towards the common goal of eradicating child labour. Monitoring has been a component of the normal work of government labour, factory, school, and health inspectors for many years, albeit it was not always known by that name. As part of their normal management and oversight efforts, both trade unions and employers have paid special attention to watch out for minor workers. Above all, parents, teachers, and community members have maintained a close check on their neighborhood’s children to ensure that they attend school and do not indulge in such dangerous activities.

The simple act of observing and reporting is being used as an active instrument in the fight to end child labour. CLM is thus more than just an inspection; it establishes a mechanism for documenting and following up on abuses that will last long after the completion of specific CL programmes and projects. CLM extends beyond specific target groups of children to eventually include all individuals at risk when it is incorporated into the entire system of “Governance.”

2021: The International Year for Elimination of Child Labour

The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution proclaiming 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, and tasked the International Labor Organization (ILO) with overseeing its implementation. and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and end child labour in all forms by 2025.

Several events will be held throughout the year to promote awareness of this problem, which affects one out of every ten children. Regional, national, and organisational stakeholders, as well as individuals, are encouraged to outline tangible steps that they will take by December 2021 to help abolish child labour. The year 2021 will be critical in determining whether we achieve our goal of abolishing child labour by 2025.It is high time for all stakeholders — governments, the commercial sector, civil society, and foreign partners — to step up their efforts to ensure that no child is robbed of their childhood!