Creating a protective environment against child labour
Maputo 11 June 2007 – The International Day Against Child Labour, which is celebrated on 12 June, is this year dedicated to raise awareness about child labour in the agriculture industry. Agriculture alone accounts for over 70 per cent of child labour worldwide.
According to recent data, over 132 million children under 15 years old work on farms and plantations around the world, which deprives them of adequate education, health, and basic freedoms. In Africa it is estimated that there are between 56 and 72 million child workers in agriculture.
The 2004-2005 survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics shows that in Mozambique 32 per cent of children between 7 and 17 years old are engaged in some form of economic activity. As the survey reveals, rural areas account for 40 per cent of children work, while in urban areas only 16 per cent of children are engaged in economic activity.
The work children perform in agriculture is often invisible and unacknowledged because they assist their parents or relatives on the family farm. Children are often classified as ‘helpers’ even though they perform similar and, at times, more strenuous work as adults.
Given their extreme poverty and the shortage of schools and professional training centres, particularly in rural areas, many Mozambican parents and guardians put their children to work from an early age in order to complement the household income or for subsistence.
At age seven, around 6 per cent of children in the country are already engaged in productive activity. Overall, boys and girls are involved in equal measures, with the exception of domestic work, where girls make up a larger proportion of the affected children.
Children labourers in agriculture face a number of risks and dangers including long hours and hazardous working conditions, which in Mozambique are more prominent in cotton and tobacco industry. They also face extreme temperatures, risk of injury from heavy machinery, toxic pesticides, livestock and wild animals.
Mozambique’s new Children’s Act, which is expected to be adopted this year, already contains provisions to reinforce the prohibition of any form of work for children under 15 and provides for punitive measures to be taken against an employer using children’s labour under the age restriction.
However, the reinforcement of the legal framework against child labour in Mozambique will require extensive awareness raising and capacity building among all levels of government and society responsible for its implementation.
Child work is defined as children’s participation in economic activity, which does not negatively affect their health and development. Light work, which does not interfere with a child’s education is permitted from age 12 under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 138 concerning the minimum age for admission to employment.
Child labour refers to children working in contravention of ILO conventions 138 and 182 (on the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour). Child labour comprises all children below the age of 12 working in any economic activities, children between 12 and 14 engaged in more than light work and all children engaged in the worst forms of child labour.
Worst forms of child labour
Worst forms of child labour involve children being enslaved, forcibly recruited, prostituted, trafficked, forced into illegal activity or exposed to occupational hazards.