Children in agriculture: The unseen scourge
Today is the World Day Against Child Labour. This year the focus is
on the elimination of child labour in agriculture.
Child labourers in agriculture perform hazardous labour - work that
could threaten their lives
Labour: Each year the World Day Against Child Labour has often
focused on one of the "Worst Forms of Child Labour" listed in Convention
No.182, starting with the Unconditional Worst Forms, such as child
This was then followed by child domestic work and then child labour
in mining last year. The event is aimed at mobilising people around the
world against child labour and its worst forms, reflecting local
cultures and customs, while encouraging the participation of
authorities, the media, civil society and the public at large.
This year the 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 per cent. 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
These myths have to be banished:
* That children working in the field are learning a skill
* That children using pesticides is just a task
* That child labour in agriculture only exists in developing
These myths that have perpetuated for long, have to be broken for the
sake of the children who are wasting there days and nights, proving that
its not just a hobby or just helping their father or just a learning
skill but its actually snatching their childhood.
Child Labour in agriculture has become a global phenomenon. It is
found in all regions of the world. Of an estimated 218 million child
labourers 70 per cent of them are working in agriculture. Nine out of
ten children in rural areas are working in agriculture or are involved
in the similar activities.
Many of the world's child labourers in agriculture perform hazardous
labour - work that can threaten their lives, limbs, health and general
well-being. Agriculture is one of the three most dangerous sectors in
which to work at any age, along with construction and mining in terms of
work-related deaths and injuries, and this is especially true for
children, whose lack of experience or training and still-developing
bodies make them particularly vulnerable.
It is found in both developed and developing countries and the trend
to employ children in these fields has also become very common. It is
also a sector where many children are effectively denied education
through factors which include lack of schools and teachers, lack of free
education and so on.
Children become farm labourers around the world at an early age. Most
statistical surveys only cover child workers aged 10 and above. Many
children begin work at an earlier age, however. Rural children, in
particular girls, tend to begin work young, at 5, 6 or 7 years of age.
In some countries, children under 10 are estimated to account for 20
per cent of child labour in rural areas.
According to ILO report 73.3 per cent boys and 78.8 per cent girls
are involved in agriculture and animal husbandry. The work that children
perform in agriculture is often invisible and unacknowledged because
they assist their parents or relatives on the family farm or they
undertake piecework or work under a quota system on larger farms or
plantations, often as part of migrant worker families.
Agriculture is historically and traditionally an under-regulated
sector in many countries. This means that child labour laws - if they
exist - are often less stringent in agricultural industries than in
In some countries, adult and child workers in agriculture are not
covered by or are exempt from safety and health laws covering other
categories of adult workers. Children are generally allowed to operate
machinery and drive tractors at a younger age in agriculture than in
other sectors. It degrades often harms and even kills children.
Since 1788 when industrial revolution started, the burden to make
profits was on children. To get more and more profit, children were used
as cheap labour not only in factories but also in the production of the
raw material, in agriculture.
Starting from chocolate industry to textiles and food industry all
are dependent on agriculture for raw materials.
The major reason for hiring children has nothing to do with economic
efficiency. Children are easier to manage than adults - although less
skilled, they are less aware of their rights, less troublesome, less
complaining and more flexible - and ultimately expendable.
For some employers they constitute a reserve of casual labour to be
hired and fired at will. When their labour is illegal, they and their
parents are less likely to complain to the authorities for fear of
losing whatever meagre income they bring to their families.
Moreover, some employers genuinely consider that they are doing a
favour to the children whom they employ by offering them work and
income. Thus, declaring child labour to be illegal may in some cases
have the perverse effect of depriving child workers of much of the
protection provided by labour legislation to adults.
This only serves to highlight the point that prohibition alone will
not suffice. Simple bans on child labour are not successful if they are
not supplemented by a range of other measures. It has to be understood
that it is not the responsibility of children to develop a country but
it's the responsibility of the country to develop a child.
We need to put all the national and international legislation
effectively. Today there are many boycott calls by the NGO's, civil
societies and other organisations have raised concerned about the
products assembled or otherwise manufactured in with child labour.
Many ethical trading initiatives and consumer awareness programmes
like Rugmark, International Cocoa Initiatives, have been successful in
combating child labour but still a lot more has to be done.
The countries and cooperates should think of this issue seriously and
abide by the agreements that they have made nationally and
internationally. There should be proper monitoring system to check that
there is no child labour used in the production of raw material as well
as in any segment of supply chain.
Source: Global March Against Child Labour