Regional News of 2014-06-12

Child labour exposes children to exploitation

Around the world, large numbers of children are engaged in paid or unpaid domestic work in the home of a third party or employer.

These children can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Their work is often hidden from the public eye and they may be isolated and/or working far away from their family home.

Child labour refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives them of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school and which is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful.

This practice is considered exploitative by many international organisations Stories of the abuse of children in domestic work that deprives them of adequate education, health, leisure, basic freedom which violate their rights are too common.

According to the World Bank, the incidence of child labour in the world decreased from 25 to 10 per cent between 1960 and 2003. Nevertheless, the total number of child labourers remains high, with UNICEF and ILO acknowledging that worldwide, an estimated 168 million children aged 5–17 were involved in child labour in 2013.

Ghana Child Labour Survey

The 2001 Ghana Child Labour Survey also indicates that 6.36 million children aged between 5 and 17 are economically active, with about 1.27 million engaged in activities classified as child labour Of these children, a number of them are engaged in worse forms of child labour such as slavery, drug trafficking and prostitution.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the event brings together governments, employers and workers organisations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world, to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them.

The global theme for the celebration of the 2014 World Day Against Child Labour is “Extend social protection, combat child labour”, while the national theme is “Combating child labour in Ghana through effective social protection”.

To mark the global event, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has joined stakeholders around the world to raise awareness and call for renewed national action to end child labour and related activities which prevent children from realising their fullest potential.

Statement by CHRAJ

A statement signed and issued by the commission’s Deputy Commissioner, Mr Joseph Whittal, described this year’s theme as “very apt as it sheds the spotlight on the need for urgent steps to be taken to protect children and their families by giving all children an equal opportunity to fulfil their potential and live healthy, happy and productive lives”.

It said it was instructive to note that latest International Labour Organisation (ILO) Global Child Labour estimates indicate that the number of child labourers had declined by one third since 2000 from 246 million to 168 million. But that notwithstanding, it is quite alarming that the number of children in hazardous work stands at 85 million, a sad indication that the 2016 global target for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour will not be met.

This means that there is the need for stakeholders across the board to substantially accelerate and intensify efforts in order to eradicate child labour.

The 2013 World Report on Child Labour rightly emphasises the importance of addressing the underlying economic and social vulnerabilities that force families to resort to child labour.

According to the statement, CHRAJ, therefore, welcomes the government’s efforts at extending the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme to cover the many households which fall below the poverty line. It is important the government increases the allowances it pays beneficiaries to meet the prevailing economic circumstances and efforts must also be sustained to rope other poor households in so as to ensure that poverty does not force people into pushing their wards into hazardous works.

“It is, therefore, important for the government and all relevant stakeholders to work in concert to accelerate social protection programmes, as well as devise other innovative ways of protecting children, especially those in child labour-prone areas,” it said.

Efforts by Gender Ministry

The statement pointed out that efforts by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to provide shelter and other forms of social protection for the vulnerable, especially street children, must be commended. However, there is the need for the ministry to do more by strengthening synergies with stakeholders to carry through the National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Ghana (NPA 2009-2015).

The commission called on Ghanaians to change their attitudes, put their shoulders to the wheel and join hands with relevant organisations to end labour, pointing out that “Even though poverty brings untold hardships to families, it is never a good enough reason to force children into hazardous works.”