According to the International Labor Office, hazardous work* is one of theworst forms of child labor. In its recent report entitled, “Children in Hazardous Work,” the ILO states:
Children in hazardous work are in many respects the silent majority within child labour. Although they appear in photos, when it comes to action they are often eclipsed by form of child labour that have captured the public eye, such as child soldiers or trafficked children, or they are subsumed within general child labour efforts. Still too few policies or programmes are geared to the special needs of children who do hazardous work.
- According to the most recent statistics (2008), there are approximately 115 million children currently employed in hazardous work.
- Although less than one-third of younger children in employment (those aged 5–14) are now in hazardous work, almost half of all children aged 15–17 who are employed perform hazardous work.
- Hazardous work is increasing among older children, aged 15–17. Within four years (2004–08), it jumped 20%– from 52 million to 62 million. Boys outnumber girls by two to one in this age group.
- Children have higher rates of injury and death at work than adults, as shown by data from industrialized countries.
Despite the Dismal Facts, Progress is Being MadeAlthough the number of children in hazardous work is large, some of the most dangerous types of child work are concentrated in specific localities, specific occupations, specific tasks and specific age groups. Focusing energies on these pockets could go a long way towards generating the momentum needed to make progress. However,…the scale of the problem could increase in many countries due to demographic changes, as youthful population bulges move into adolescence….Major and sustainable progress requires public policies that address the root causes of child labour: tackling poverty, ensuring children have access to education and providing a social protection floor which protects the vulnerable.
The Report acknowledges the challenges and difficulty in tackling this issue on a global level; however, the Report found that there is progress being made. Specifically, the Report found:
- For younger children (aged 5–14) in hazardous work, rates came down 31 % between 2004 and 2008; for girls they are down by 24%.
- There are 173 countries that have committed themselves to tackling hazardous work of children “as a matter of urgency” by ratifying the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999.
Call For ActionChildren in hazardous work must be made a priority in the next five years, and the Report recommends action on the following fronts:
- There must be a renewed effort to ensure that all children remain in school, at least through the minimum age of employment;
- We must strengthen workplace safety and health for all workers, and enforce specific safeguards for youth between the minimum age of employment and the age of 18; and
- Each nation must develop a legal foundation for action against hazardous child work, with the support of workers and employers.