Tuesday, June 12, is the World Day against Child Labour, an International Labour Organization (ILO)-sanctioned holiday. It is intended to foster the worldwide movement against child labour in any of its forms. First launched in 2002 aiming to raise awareness and activism to prevent child labour, it was spurred by ratifications of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment and ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour.
Child labour, as the statistics clearly demonstrate, is a problem of immense global proportions. Following its comprehensive research into the issue, the ILO concluded that it was necessary to strengthen existing Conventions on child labour. Convention No. 182 helped to focus the international spotlight on the urgency of action to eliminate, as a priority, the worst forms of child labour without losing the long term goal of the effective elimination of all child labour.
The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It also refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
While child labour takes many different forms, a priority is to eliminate the worst forms of child labour as defined by Article 3 of ILO Convention No. 182: This convention seeks to eliminate all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties as well as work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
ILO, the United Nations body that regulates the world of work, launched the World Day against Child Labour in 2002 in order to bring attention and join efforts to fight against child labour. This day brings together governments, local authorities, civil society and international workers and employers organizations to point out the child labour problem and define the guidelines to help child labourers.
Research findings contained in ILO’s data indicate that hundreds of millions of girls and boys throughout the world are involved in work that deprives them of receiving adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating in this way their rights. Of these children, more than half are exposed to the worst forms of child labour. These worst forms of child labour include work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.
It is estimated that 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.
This year, the World Day against Child Labour (WDACL) and the World Day for Safety and Health at Work shine a spotlight on the global need to improve the safety and health of young workers and end child labour.
This joint campaign aims to accelerate action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 8.8 of safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030 and SDG target 8.7 of ending all forms of child labour by 2025. Achieving these goals for the benefit of the next generation of the global workforce requires a concerted and integrated approach to eliminating child labour and promoting a culture of prevention on occupational safety health.
In Nigeria, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) created on July 14, 2003 by the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2003, among other functions, investigate all cases of trafficking in persons including forced labour, child labour, forced prostitution, exploitative labour and other forms of exploitation, slavery and slavery – like activities, bonded labour, illegal smuggling of migrants, sale and purchase of persons with the intention of bringing those involved in the illicit trade to justice. Through its activities, deserved attention is focussed on child labour with impressive results.