Children Shouldn’t Work On Fields, But On Their Dreams! by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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Children shouldn’t work on fields, but on their dreams. Nonetheless, according to the United Nations, over 218 million children between aged between 5 and 17 years are engaged in labor worldwide. This labor will keep them away from education or severely affect their access to or performance in education, and so diminishes their dreams.

A child is seen collecting pieces of coal in a dusty wastage at the brick field in Narayanganj. (Photo credit: Ziaul Haque Oisharjh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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Over 152 million of these children are victims of child labor, ranging from forced labor, debt bondage, slavery, prostitution or illicit activities. 73 million of them work in hazardous environments that are likely to result in physical or mental injuries and harm. 58% of all children in child labor are boys with 62% of them working in hazardous work environments. 

The International Labor Organization (ILO) considers that child labor among girls may be as prevalent, but merely remains underreported. This is highly likely to be the case, especially where girls work as domestic servants. Among the children most at risk are those belonging to (often disadvantaged, discriminated or persecuted) minority groups and refugee children.

To address the issue of child labor, in 2002, the ILO launched the World Day Against Child Labor. It is commemorated annually on June 12 and intends to raise awareness on the issue of child labor and to establish a concerted effort to eradicate it. This year’s theme for the day is “Children shouldn’t work in fields, but on dreams!” Despite the fact that child labor is an issue present across all sectors, over 60% of all child laborers between 5-17 years of age work in agriculture, including farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry and livestock. The majority of them (67.5%) are unpaid family members. The predominant cause of child labor in agriculture is poverty. 

While child labor is common in all agricultural sub-sectors, whether farming, fishing and aquaculture, forestry or livestock production, it is crucial to emphasize that, according to the ILO, agriculture is one of the three most dangerous sectors to work in, independent of the age of the worker. Statistically, the agricultural industry is characterized by high levels of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases. The dangerous nature of agricultural work presents a higher risk for children, who, in comparison with adults, will often lack the physical abilities, experience or judgment to be able to ensure their own safety. Furthermore, certain activities have a different effect on children than on adults. Indeed,

until the late teens, children’s minds and bodies are still developing and therefore they absorb toxic substances more easily, retaining them longer. Their growth and functioning of their nervous system can be impaired by certain agricultural chemicals. Children also have higher energy and fluid requirements and are more susceptible to dehydration. Some of the effects may not become evident until adulthood. The physical strain and repetitive movements associated with many agricultural tasks can deform bones and injure ligaments and muscles, especially in the back, causing life-long disabilities.”

Addressing the issue of child labor in agriculture is highly challenging due to the nature of the labor sector, including “fragmentation of the labor force, low capacity of labor inspectors to cover remote rural areas, majority of child laborers working as unpaid family labor without formal contracts, continuity between rural household and the workplace, and traditions of children participating in agricultural activities from a young age.” This means that it is highly difficult not only to end child labor in agriculture but also to address the safety issues. 

Nonetheless, the ILO emphasizes that some non-hazardous activities may be beneficial or positive to children as they help with the inter-generational transfer of skills and children’s food security. However, a distinction must be made between children engaging in light non-hazardous duties and what constitutes child labor. Child labor is a work activity that “interferes with compulsory schooling and damages health and personal development, based on hours and conditions of work, child’s age, activities performed and hazards involved.” On the contrary, light activities that may be positive for child’s development need to be age-appropriate, non-hazardous, and to not interfere with a child’s education or leisure time. Yet, as one of the drivers of child labor is poverty, children may not have the choice. 

In 2019, the ILO marks 100 years of its existence and work surrounding all aspects of labor, including tackling child labor. The Preamble of the ILO’s Constitution has the protection of children at its heart and one of the first ILO Conventions concerns the issue of the minimum age in the industry. The ILO has produced several toolkits and a set of guidelines that can help to address the issue of child labor in general, and in agriculture specifically. Considering the severe risks associated with child labor, child labor in agriculture, and especially where it is hazardous, the issue cannot be left unanswered. Nonetheless, it is crucial to recognize the link between poverty and child labor and combat both to ensure that children do not work on fields, but on their dreams.

June 9, 2019 at 04:36PM
https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2019/06/09/children-shouldnt-work-on-fields-but-on-their-dreams/
Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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