Children shouldn’t be subject to hard labour at such a tender age; they’re not created to run a household before they’ve started school, or work on a farm so their family can eat. And yet, there are an estimated 91 million child labourers under the age of 11 in our world today.
Poverty is both a cause and an effect of child labour. Working from a young age can damage a child’s mental and physical health, their security and their chance at gaining an education—which also diminishes the child’s chance of escaping poverty.
Who is affected?
Child labour encompasses children between the ages of five and 17. It’s usually defined according to a child’s age and work type, and is typically identified as work that robs a child of their childhood, and is harmful to their health and future well-being.
Worldwide, there are 215 million child labourers; 115 million of these children are exposed to hazardous work such as working with heavy machinery or in deep underground mines. Seventy-five per cent of working children are in agriculture on farms and plantations, often working from sunrise to sunset with dangerous pesticides and chemicals.
Child labour is most prominent in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in four children between the ages of five and 17 are engaged in child labour.
Progress so far
According to the International Labour Organisation, a branch of the United Nations, the number of child labourers worldwide has declined by 11 per cent in the past four years, and the number of children in hazardous work has decreased by 26 per cent. However, progress is irregular and child labour still remains extremely common in many countries worldwide.
In 2006, the United Nations signed the Global Action Plan for child labour, aiming to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2016. To achieve this goal, we need renewed commitment to wide-scale action.
Despite increased awareness about the issue, child labour among boys and young people between the ages of 15 and 17 has risen, and progress in eliminating the practice in sub-Saharan has stalled.
(International Labour Office: Accelerating action against child labour, 2010)
Compassion does not directly engage with the issue of child labour. However, our Child Sponsorship Program can be a preventative measure against the issue, as each child is known to centre staff and has their wellbeing monitored. An essential part of the Child Sponsorship Program is ensuring children have the opportunity to complete primary school. We often work with families to teach the value of educating their child and find a way for their child to go to school rather than work by assisting with food supplies or vocational training for parents. However, if it’s still necessary for the child to work, we are sometimes able to help arrange special classes so that they can continue their schooling.
The Child Sponsorship Program uses a holistic child development model to help release children from every aspect of poverty, with the goal that by graduation every child will:
- Demonstrate commitment to the lordship of Christ
- Choose good health practices and be physically healthy
- Exhibit the motivation and skills to be economically self-supporting
- Interact with other people in a healthy and compassionate manner.