Ipyet/Child Labour Considerations Youth Enterprise training

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Module 3.2: Child Labour Considerations in Youth Entrepreneurship Training

A discussion paper by
Mukatumui Chabala

Welcome to this session. You will be introduced to basic child labour information using some components of the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC’s) education tool on Supporting Children’s Rights through Education, the Arts and the Media (SCREAM!! ). You will be provided with background information on child labour for a basic understanding of the complexity of the issues surrounding the problem.

It is hoped that this session will stimulate interest and discussion from participants and bring forth examples from your countries depicting child labourers, how it affects you as a youth and how you see your role in using available resources to impart knowledge on child labour issues. Good luck and hope you enjoy the session.

Objectives of the Session

Icon objectives.jpg
  1. To provide participants with background information on child labour and issues surrounding the phenomenon.
  2. To introduce participants to activities for training and awareness raising on child labour

Session Introduction

Considering that child labour is an important factor to consider in the world of work in general and in the area of entrepreneurship in particular, the IPYET provides an opportunity to share information on child labour and how the youth can play a role in responding to the problem. It is also essential in the field of entrepreneurship to be aware of labour laws so as to avoid exploitative work and also not to be a perpetrator of such exploitation as a result of lack of knowledge but rather be proactive in playing a role to address the problem.

In this child labour module, we will explore some facts on child labour and general information followed by a series of questions for discussion. The exercises and questions at the end of the session not only help you to assess your understanding of the materials consulted, but also serve to provide you with practical examples of how you can engage on child labour issues through training and sensitization activities. The session is presented as follows:

Session Outline

  1. About child labour
  2. Introduction to child labour concepts
    • International conventions on child labour
    • Domestication of international conventions
    • Facts on child labour
    • Causes and consequences of child labour
    • Addressing child labour through youth entrepreneurship programmes
  3. Further recommended readings
  4. References

About Child Labour

Introduction to Child Labour Concepts

When we talk about the elimination of child labour, we do not talk about that work which is aimed at socializing children. What is unacceptable is child labour which hinders children from going to school and receiving their education and also puts their health in danger.

Child labour is determined by the age of the child and the type of work engaged in and is broadly considered as:

  • That work which is carried out to the detriment and endangerment of the child in violation if international law and national legislation.
  • It includes work and activities that are mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children.
  • It is work that either deprives children of schooling or requires them to assume the multiple burdens of schooling and work.
  • It can also be work that enslaves them and separates them from their families.
  • It condemns children and their families to the downward spiral of poverty and deprivation.

Children are inevitably at greater risk in the work place than their adult counterparts by virtue of being tender physically and less mature in mind and spirit. National surveys have found that a very high proportion of children are either physically injured or fall ill while working. Some of these children may never work again. In sectors where machinery and equipment is involved, such as agriculture, the potential for injury is much higher, Agriculture, mining and construction are very high-risk industries for child labourers.

International Declarations and Conventions on Child Labour

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) – Article 32 Right to freedom from economic exploitation
  • Optional protocol on human trafficking (Palermo Protocol) – moving of a child for the purpose of exploitation
  • Optional protocol on armed conflict
  • ILO Convention No, 138 (1973) on minimum age for admission to employment: 15 years is the general minimum age (or age of completion of compulsory education); 18 years is generally the minimum age for hazardous labour.
  • ILO Convention 182 (1999) on elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour
    • All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery; trafficking; illicit activities; commercial sexual exploitation; armed conflict; hazardous labour as defined within each country
    • The Convention also requires the definition and making public a list of hazardous labour prohibited for children under 18 years of age.
  • ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

Domestication of international conventions

In order to make international conventions implementable at national level, they are domesticated into national legal and policy frameworks and related operational programmes and mechanisms.

Country Example - Zambia

In Zambia, the child labour conventions have been domesticated through:

  • The Employment of Children and Young Persons Act
  • National child labour policy
  • National Employment and Labour Policy
  • National Action Plan for the elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour
  • Anti-human trafficking law
  • Anti-human trafficking policy
  • Constitution: prohibiting forced labour

Facts on child labour

  • Although child labour is recognised as a human rights issue, an estimated 215 million children worldwide are still in child labour and a staggering 115 million are exposed to hazardous work.
  • In 2006, the ILO’s second Global Report on Child Labour showed that significant progress was being made in the fight against child labour. Encouraged by the positive trend, a global target was set to eliminate child labour in its worst forms by 2016. Four years on, the third Global Report paints a different picture: child labour continues to decline, but at a slower pace. The report warns that if countries carry on at this pace, the 2016 target will not be met.
  • A rather mixed picture emerges from the new global estimates of 2010 on child labour. The decline recorded is modest with a 3% reduction in the four year period covered by the estimates. The largest decline among children aged 5-14 has been experienced where child labour fell by 10%. There are also fewer children in hazardous work, a proxy sometimes used for the worst forms of child labour. In fact, the more harmful the work and the more vulnerable the children involved, the faster the decline, especially for girls. This is very encouraging news. However, with the numbers of children still exposed to child labour, the battle is far from over.
  • Some key challenges in tackling child labour highlight the alarming scale of the problem in Africa and South Asia, the need for a drive against child labour in agriculture and the need to tackle sometimes “hidden” forms of child labour which are often also among the worst forms.
  • Africa remains the region with the least progress over the last decade. Africa is also the region with the highest incidence of children working, with one in four children engaged in child labour. While Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean continue to reduce child labour, sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed an increase both in relative and absolute terms, which is very alarming news. Another region that faces a critical situation is South Asia, home to the greatest numbers of child labourers and where a greater political commitment to the ratification of the ILO child labour Conventions is required.
  • Many child labourers are deprived of an education and suffer physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Some will be physically handicapped or even die before reaching adulthood as a direct result of their labour while others will be emotionally scarred for life.
  • For many, child labour is an invisible phenomenon because children work in hidden occupations or because society is only too willing to turn a blind eye. Making child labourers visible will help strip society of its indifference to their plight. Making child labourers visible is what this session aims to do and through it also provide you with the tools to make them visible in your communities for corrective action to be taken.
  • Education and tackling poverty are the major components in sustainable action to eliminate child labour. In 2000, just over 13% of all children between the ages of 10 and 14 were working instead of going to school. Yet, every year that a child attends school dramatically reduces the chance that he or she will end up in economic servitude.

Discussion questions parts 2.1 – 2.4:

  • What do you understand by the term ‘child labour’?
  • What does child labour mean to you?
  • What age of child do we refer to when we talk about child labour?
  • What sort of work are we talking about?
  • In which parts of the world is child labour most prevalent.
  • Which region has recorded the least progress over the last decade?
  • Are child labourers paid?
  • Do they live at home?
  • Do they go to school?

Causes and consequences of child labour

Lack of access to education

There are many reasons why children work and do not go to school. Basic education in most countries is not free and is not always available for all children. Where schools are available, the quality of education can be poor and parents see no value in education, children are sent to work, rather than to school. This particularly affects children in poverty and those belonging to the culturally and socially disadvantaged and excluded groups. As a result, they easily become victims of child labour exploitation


Poverty emerges as the most compelling reason why children work. It cannot be said, however, that poverty necessarily causes child labour as the situation varies. There are regions in poor countries where child labour is extensively practiced while in other equally poor regions it is not. For example, Kerala state in India, though poor, has virtually abolished child labour. Countries may have equally poor and yet have relatively high or low levels of child labour.

Traditional beliefs and practices

In certain areas, it is traditional for the children to follow in their parents’ footsteps. If the family has a tradition of engaging in a hazardous occupation such as leather tanning, it is likely that the children will be caught up in the same process. In industries where payment is on a piece-rate basis, children are frequently summoned to “help” other members of the family, a common practice in construction and home-based work

Specific vulnerability

Child labour in hazardous conditions is most prevalent in the most vulnerable families – families whose low income allows them little margin to cope with the injury or illness of an adult or the disruption resulting from abandonment or divorce. Such families may often be in debt, or under the threat of it – factors which are often at the root of hazardous and bonded child labour, children being in effect sold to pay off the family debt.

Demand for child labour

Employers may prefer to hire children because they are “cheaper” than their adult counterparts and also form a largely docile work-force that will not seek to organise itself for protection and support. Part of the solution, therefore, is to target those who profit from the economic exploitation of children, bring a halt to their practices and oblige them to contribute towards the rehabilitation and support of those affected, the children and their families.

Research on the causes of child labour tends to concentrate on the supply factors, chiefly because of the common view that poverty is the driving force. But the demand for child labour also needs to be taken into account. Generally, children are easier to manage because they are less aware of their rights, less troublesome, more compliant, more trustworthy and less likely to absent themselves from work.

Impact of work on children

Because children differ from adults in their physiological and psychological make-up, they are more susceptible to and more adversely affected by specific work hazards than adults, Because they are not yet matured mentally, they are less aware of the potential risks involved in the work place.

The effects of hazardous working conditions on children’s health and development can be devastating. The impact of physically strenuous work, such as carrying heavy loads or being forced to adopt unnatural positions at work can permanently distort or disable growing bodies. Children suffer more readily from chemical hazards and radiation than do adults, and they have much less resistance to disease.

Children are also much more vulnerable than adults to physical, sexual and emotional abuse and suffer more devastating psychological damage from living and working in an environment in which they are denigrated or oppressed.

Specifically, children experience:

  • Acute physical illness and injury (resulting from lifting heavy loads, working with heavy machinery, toxic substances, etc)
  • Long term illness and wear/muscular-skeletal disorders (from repetitive movements, heavy work and machinery, toxins)
  • Low self esteem and self worth, depression, etc (abuse, isolation)
  • School drop out or underperformance
  • Perpetuation of poverty and unrealized human potential leaving individuals in poverty and nations under developed
  • Some consequences are related to different types of work which may be more pronounced among girls and boys respectively

Addressing child labour through youth entrepreneurship programmes

Child labour interventions are mainly done through prevention, withdrawal and reintegration and mitigation measures. Youth entrepreneurship programmes are particularly strategic in:

  • Withdrawal of children from hazardous work through training and skills development
  • Decent work and income generating opportunities
  • Awareness creation and social mobilization especially at community level
  • Empowerment of children to speak up for their rights and raising awareness on protection of children’s rights as outlined in the UNCRC
  • Involvement in formulation of child, youth, education, poverty reduction and other relevant policies and including child labour concerns

Discussion questions part 2.5 – 2.6

  • Why does child labour exist?
  • What makes children “desirable” employees?
  • Is child labour a bad thing?
  • How does child labour harm children?
  • What role can you play in addressing child labour?

Further recommend Readings

F. Blanco and P. Quinn: Marginalization and child labour (Geneva, IPEC, 2009).

ILO. 1999. Targeting the intolerable: A new international convention to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. ILO. Geneva.

ILO. 2002. SCREAM – Stop Child Labour. Supprting Children’s Rights through Education, the Arts and the Media. International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), ILO. Geneva.

ILO. 2006. The end of child labour: Within reach. Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. ILO. Geneva.

ILO. 2010. Accelerating action against Child labour, Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Report to the International Labour Conference, 99th Session 2010. ILO. Geneva.

ILO/IPEC. 2009. Combating child labour through education: A resource kit for policy-makers and practitioners. ILO. Geneva.

UNGASS. 2002. United Nations General Assembly resolution S-27/2, A world fit for children. UN. New York.

UNESCO. 2010. Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2010: Reaching the marginalised. UNESCO. Paris.

UNICEF. 2007. Climate change and children. UNICEF. New York.


ILO. 2002. SCREAM – Stop Child Labour. Supprting Children’s Rights through Education, the Arts and the Media. International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), ILO. Geneva.

ILO. 2010. Fact Sheet. Facts on Child Labour 2010. ILO. Geneva.

ILO. 2010. Accelerating action against Child labour, Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Report to the International Labour Conference, 99th Session 2010. ILO. Geneva.