Education is the key to combating child labour – #NoChildLabour

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KEIVAN JACKSON writes this week’s blog to mark World Day Against Child Labour (Friday 12th June)

“More than 168 million children are trapped in child labour. More than half of them, 85 million, are in hazardous work. This persistence of child labour is rooted in poverty and lack of decent work for adults, lack of social protection, and a failure to ensure that all children are attending school through to the legal minimum age for admission to employment” – International Labour Organisation

A good standard of relevant education prepares children to go on and make the most of the labour market in adulthood, preventing a cycle of poverty and underage work.

The persistence of child labour around the world is an obstacle that must be tackled and overcome. As children grow they are entitled to security and safety from exploitation. Our obligations extend from our domestic environments to the labour markets that supply our consumer choices and beyond.

Recent figures suggest that approximately 168 million children around the world are engaged in child labour. 120 million of these are aged between 5 and 14 years of age. The complexity of the issue must not be underestimated. Along with a failure to keep children in school long enough, poverty, a lack of decent work for adults and inadequate social protections lie at the root of the problem.

Solutions involve more than just removing children from the labour market. Families must be equipped to weather financial shocks without relying on income from children.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence of child labour with extreme poverty and armed conflicts seeing the phenomenon thrive. The issue is most acute in the developing world, but Europe is far from immune to the problem. In fact, thousands of children are forced to work in dangerous conditions across the continent.

Progress has been made in reducing levels of child labour. It has declined by approximately a third in the last 15 years. However, austerity policies, unemployment and reduced welfare benefits have pushed too many children out of education and into work in recent years. As the global economy recovers it is important that international efforts are refocused on counteracting the effects of the economic crisis.

The 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy underlined the relevance of Western markets in this cycle. Many children were killed producing clothes destined for high streets in developed countries. It is up to us, as consumers, to be as conscientious as possible about the goods we buy.

Policies against child exploitation are a common inclusion in corporate social responsibility policies, but additional pressure is often required to encourage companies to comprehensively examine their supply chains. Reports and campaigns about child labour have seen Irish high street retailers blacklist several manufacturers in the past few years.

The international community is currently considering its failure to achieve a range of education targets in the lead up to 2015. As the process of devising new strategies develops, it is essential that decision-makers acknowledge the importance of aligning education and child labour policies.

For our own part, we can try to ensure that our consumer choices, and the campaigns we support, help to end the abuse of children as child labourers. In this way, we can help achieve the objective of securing for them their most basic of human rights.

Keivan Jackson

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