Nexus between child labour and youth unemployment

Under aged children digging well

Under aged children digging well

…Eradicating child labour

ONE of the major contradistinctions in the world of work is the one that exist between youth unemployment, forced labour and child labour.

Under normal circumstances, the rising cases of child labour should naturally lead to a decrease in youth unemployment. It is even more ironic the close relation between these two and forced labour.

The natural question to follow is how can forced labour (unprepared to work) exist where there is youth unemployment (ability and willing to work)?

These are the posers that the latest report on child labour by the International Labour Organization (ILO) seems out to unpack.

Entitled ‘World Report on Child Labour 2015: Paving the way to decent work for young people’, the ILO report finds that young persons who were burdened by work as children are consistently more likely to have to settle for unpaid family jobs and are more likely to be in low paying jobs.

It declares that one of the likely implications of child labour is that such children will most likely lack access to school and end up on the lower rung of social ladder in the future.

Commenting on the report, the Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder said: “Our new report shows the need for a coherent policy approach that tackles child labour and the lack of decent jobs for youth together.

Keeping children in school and receiving a good education until at least the minimum age of employment will determine the whole life of a child. It is the only way for a child to acquire the basic knowledge and skills needed for further learning, and for her or his future working life.”

Speaking on child labour at the just-concluded ILC, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize co-Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, called for a change of mindsets.

“When we consider our biological children, we think that they are born to become doctors, engineers, and professors – the whole world is for them. But when we talk about other children, we think, ok, they are poor children, let them work; we will slowly help them. Let us consider all children our children.”

The report addresses the twin challenges of eliminating child labour and ensuring decent work for young people. Based on a 12-country survey, it examines the future careers of former child labourers and early school leavers.

The main findings of the report shows that prior involvement in child labour is associated with lower educational attainment, and later in life with jobs that fail to meet basic decent work criteria;

Early school leavers are less likely to secure stable jobs and are at greater risk of remaining outside the world of work altogether;

A high share of 15-17 year olds in many countries are in jobs that have been classified as hazardous or worst forms of child labour; and that those in hazardous work are more likely to have left school early before reaching the legal minimum age of employment.

The report recommends early interventions to get children out of child labour and into school as well as measures to facilitate the transition from school to decent work opportunities for young people.

Particular attention should be given to the 47.5 million young people aged 15-17 in hazardous work and the special vulnerabilities of girls and young women.

On the major findings of the report, Ryder noted thus: “National policies should be directed towards removing children and young people from hazardous jobs and, of course, towards removing the hazards in the workplace.”

The ILO’s most recent estimate is that 168 million children are in child labour, with 120 million of them aged 5-14. The report underscores the critical importance of intervening early in the life cycle against child labour.

Specific on Nigeria, ILO notes that about 15 million children under age 14 work to earn a living with nearly 60% of them going to school and working. About 6.1 million of these were classified as child labourers. The high level of diverse and tedious jobs that these children execute in dangerous circumstances is worrisome and requires a wholesome and expediential approach.

Between 2011 and 2014, the ILO with the funding from USDOL, provided support for over 700 children at high risk of child labour in Ogun and Oyo states. Most of the children supported were out of school children that were either never enrolled in school or dropped out of school.

Quoting figures by the UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EAGMR), ILO points out that it is indeed alarming to note that since 2006, there has been a steady increase in the rate of out of school children in Nigeria and about 10.2 million children are out of school in 2010. Nigeria dominates 12 other countries that accounts for 47 percent of the global out-of-school population.

Even when some children enroll in schools, many do not complete the primary cycle; reasons for low completion rate include child labour, economic hardship and early marriage for girls.

The Nigerian education system is characterized by numerous inequalities including wide geographical differences in primary school enrolment, low quality, substantial gender gaps in primary school, particularly in the north, and major income inequalities in school access.

The ILO further notes that the present situation is further aggravated by the impact of conflicts, crises and poor economic situation. In conflict zones, students and sometimes their teachers have been the victims of violent attacks and kidnapping. The poor economic situation in Nigeria has led to high rates of school dropout. These circumstances have created a large pool of inactive and unengaged children and adolescents who are much more vulnerable to child labour than their peers who go to school.

The 2015 World Day Against Child Labour’s theme is “NO to child labour, YES to quality education”, which focuses particularly on the importance of quality education as a key step in tackling child labour. It is very timely as the international community will be reviewing reasons for the failure to reach development targets on education and will be setting new goals and strategies in 2015.

ILO stated that Nigerian government has indeed made good progress in the fight against child labour. This progress is consequent upon the ILO’s support through International Programme for Elimination of Child Labour. Through this support, Nigeria now has a National Policy on Child Labour and its operational plan titled, National Action Plan on Child Labour; and a comprehensive List of Hazardous Child Labour in Nigeria among others.

The global labour watch body was quick to observe that the war against child labour is a collective challenge and responsibility of the government, civil society organizations, community leaders and parents to ensure that Nigerian children enjoy quality education. This also requires inter-ministerial efforts, together with supports from public and private institutions at all levels, to work together to ensure that the rights of the child are protected in line with international and national instruments.

ILO stressed that it remained optimistic that quality education will drastically reduce the rate of child labour in the country and remains committed to working nationally, internationally and with the multilateral system to ensure children’s right to education and freedom from child labour as well as its corollary, the dignity of decent work for children within the legal working age and adults.

On her part the Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Mrs. Beatrice Jedy-Agba has urged parents to embrace the educational policies of government at various levels as a panacea to eradicating wide spread ignorance and ending the cycle of poverty in families.

The Director General insisted that education of the child remains the best legacy a parent can leave for the child, adding that because education frees the mind from ignorance and the cycle of poverty, every child must be allowed to attain the minimum level of education available in the country.

She said that the Federal Government’s Universal Basic Education, the Almajiri education programme as well as other programmes run by state governments should be embraced by all parents for their children.

“We join ILO to call on government at all levels who are yet to enforce the free, compulsory and quality education for children to do so in their states. Children belong in classrooms, not hawking on the highway and busy streets, quarries, mines, etc. where they endanger their lives on a daily basis,” she stated.

While urging parents to be alive to their responsibilities to their children as a way of ridding the society of the activities of child labour recruiters, Mrs. Jedy-Agba explained that Child exploitative labour deprives children of quality education that would improve their lives and brighten their future.

She lamented the over 120 million children between the ages of five and 12 engaged in child labour around the world.

Her words: “This is a staggering figure when one thinks of the implications of such acts on the development of these young ones. We need to rid our society of this cankerworm. Parents need to wake up to their responsibilities and realize that it is not the duty of their children to put food on their table or take care of the financial needs of the family. Most of the children in domestic exploitative labour are deprived of the golden opportunity to go to school and acquire quality education. They face different sorts of physical, mental, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse in the hands of their employers.”

She further explained that it was in a bid to put a stop to child labour that informed the newly enacted Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administrative Act 2015, which criminalizes the employment or engagement of a child below the age of 12 as a domestic help.

She added: “It is also illegal to engage a child below the age of 18 to work in a quarry, mines, or other hazardous environments. Safeguarding the lives of children should be everyone’s responsibility; such acts that depict child labour should be reported to appropriate authorities as this will save the lives of our children.”

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