Child Labor: Statistics and Role of Fair Trade in Prevention

Child Labor: Statistics and Role of Fair Trade in Prevention

What are some of your most beautiful childhood memories? Tending to the garden with your grandparents, bedtime stories with your mother, cooking up silly in the kitchen or just endless hours of fun under the sun? Chances are recollections of that wonderful time will bring a smile to your lips and your heart would want to revisit those again & again.

Now imagine being robbed of such memories, and instead worry about your or your family's safety, hunger and basic needs. That is what poverty brings to the tables - along with its complexities and implications - which has a far-reaching impact on the lives of children. Close to 160 million children across the world are forced into child labour, according to the 2020 International Labour Organisation (ILO) report. Despite the commitment by the ILO towards eradicating child labour, it is still a major concern for many countries today. Learn about the problem and how fair trade plays an important role in the prevention effort.

Children are our future

Children are considered the future of humanity. The survival and well-being of current & future generations lay in their hands. Giving them the freedom to grow and nurture, to be listened to and taken care of is essential for happy, confident children. Since children are often the most vulnerable members of society, they rely on us to support them. When their feelings, thoughts, and questions are taken seriously and met with empathy and interest by adults the children learn courage to express themselves and to be heard. Once they feel confident, children will not only learn about the world around them but will also strive to make it better in their adult lives.

"Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth who care for and protect our people. " - Nelson Mandela (3 June 1995)

What is Child labour?

The following definition is from United Nations's International Labor Organization (ILO) which can be considered as precedence for adaptations by various governing bodies, organisations and countries. ILO is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights. It's mission is that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace.

"Child labour comprises work that children are too young to perform and/or work that, by its nature or circumstances, is likely to harm children’s health, safety or morals. In more technical terms, child labour encompasses work performed by children in any type of employment, with two important exceptions: permitted light work for children within the age range specified for light work; and work that is not classified as among the worst forms of child labour, particularly as hazardous work, for children above the general minimum working age."

Lost Childhood

Child labour statistics show that 160 million children (ages 5 to 17) were engaged in child labour worldwide at the beginning of 2020. To put this differently, in the less developed countries, one in four children are engaged in labour. COVID-19 has only made this situation worse. Due to the devasting economic consequence of this global pandemic 9 million additional children have been forced into child labour.

Out of the staggering figure of 160 million, approximately 79 million are performing hazardous work. Hazardous work refers to work that is likely to harm children’s health, safety or morals e.g. working underground, underwater, long hours.

The worst cases of child labour include the sale and trafficking of children, forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict and prostitution. This is clearly detrimental to children's physical & mental health and development.

Child labor is a problem which has been recognized as a challenge to sustainable development - a case of lost childhood, deprivation and disadvantage. It undermines the right of children to survival, health and education; it perpetuates poverty, creates social divisions and endangers future generations through lost opportunities for schooling & skills training. Most of the children who have encountered difficulties early in their formative years are not able to turn their life around in their later years.

 

Child labour and India

According to data from Census 2011, the number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls. The Indian legislation called the Child & Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 was formulated to address the issue of child labour.

The legislation defines ‘child’ and working conditions. The law defines ‘child’ as anyone who has not completed 14 years of age and ‘adolescent’ as anyone who has completed his 14th year of age but is below 18 years.

The legislation prohibits and regulate child labour as briefly explained below -

  • It prohibits employment of children in any occupations and processes unless the child is helping family during holidays or after-school hours or the child works as an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry provided that work doesn't negatively impact the school education of the child.
  • All children including adolescents are prohibited from working or helping in any occupation or processes that is identified as hazardous.
  • Adolescents are permitted to work in occupations and processes that are outside of the hazardous list but within regulated conditions.

Indian government has introduced various laws, schemes and programmes to address child labour in India. These have varying objectives, some of these are engaged in preventing and rehabilitation and other are responsible for protection.

 

Our role

The Economic Survey Report 2019-20 published by Indian government shows that nearly 80% of the Indian work force comes from the unorganised or informal sector. This sector has limited access to social security measures & employment benefits, lower and less regular incomes, and often inadequate or unsafe working conditions. A few examples of occupations under this sector include working in brick kilns, carpet weaving, garment making, domestic service, food and refreshment services, agriculture, fisheries and mining.

Any government or agencies alone can not do enough towards curbing this menace, society as a whole needs to come together and play its part. Child labour is the result of many factors, including poverty, unemployment and lack of decent work opportunities.

More than one third of all children in child labour are excluded from school. We work with our producer groups to ensure fair-wages to artisans so that they can provide decent and dignified living conditions for their families and quality education to their children.

A fair wage increases the ability of families to cope with emergencies without resorting to child labour. It helps alleviate poverty, sustainably grow the economy, and advance gender, racial, disability, and economic justice. This also helps artisans to continue practicing their art and craft inspired by their local culture. 

Our well established, responsible business practices help keep our producers afloat and reduce child labour. Some of the examples of such practices include honouring commitments on orders, providing 50% payments upfront and remaining 50% before goods are dispatched via sea, and product price capturing the true production costs and market values of those products.

Our commitment and our producer group's commitment does not stop at fair wages. In order for children to persist and succeed at school, often educational assistance is provided with the help of qualified tutors. This sets the children towards path of success considering that children from a few artisan families are the first in their family to step into a school and thus need support in navigating it. This assistance improves their grade progression ensuring that they do not drop out prematurely. Financial assistance towards school fees and costs for books, uniforms and transport also keeps the education affordable and within reach. 

Conclusion

We at Aksa Home Decor along with our producer groups aim to reverse the upward trend of child labour in whatever manner we can. ​We are proud to be a part of the #FairTrade movement and so should You. By shopping for fair trade handmade goods, you contribute to the upliftment of our artisan community. You help us in creating a world where artisans create affordable pieces that are not just aesthetically pleasing, and sustainable but those that make a real difference in the lives of people and the planet.

 

Sources:

 

https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_norm/@ipec/documents/publication/wcms_797515.pdf

https://labour.gov.in/child-women-labour

 

 

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