Child Labour in Agriculture

Key facts

108 million boys and girls between 5 and 17 years are identified as child labourers in agriculture
Worldwide, nearly 70.9 percent of child labour is found in agriculture
Agriculture is one of the most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related facilitates, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases
Most of children’s agricultural work is unpaid and takes place within the family unit

FAO’s role in preventing and reducing child labour in agriculture

Child labour is defined as work that is inappropriate for a child’s age, affects children’s education, or is likely to harm their health, safety or morals. It should be emphasized that not all work carried out by children is considered child labour. Some activities may help children acquire important livelihood skills and contribute to their survival and food security. However, much of the work children do in agriculture is not age-appropriate, is likely to be hazardous or interferes with children’s education. For instance, a child under the minimum age for employment who is hired to herd cattle, a child applying pesticides, and a child who works all night on a fishing boat and is too tired to go to school the next day would all be considered child labour.

Child labour perpetuates a cycle of poverty for the children involved, their families and communities. Without education, these boys and girls are likely to remain poor. The prevalence of child labour in agriculture violates the principles of decent work. By perpetuating poverty, it undermines efforts to reach sustainable food security and end hunger.

FAO works with its partners to address the root causes of child labour. This includes, in particular, the ILO, IFAD, IUF and IFPRI/CGIAR through the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture and a wide range of different actors in agriculture. FAO is also a member of the Global Coordination Group of the Alliance 8.7.

Actions in support of the prevention of child labour in agriculture:

  • Implementing diverse country programmes and supporting Governments to develop and implement agricultural policies and programmes addressing child labour in agriculture.
  • Strengthening the capacities of agriculture and labour stakeholders and their collaboration.
  • Raising awareness and knowledge at all levels, from communities, to nation-wide campaigns, regional interventions, and global action.
  • Securing better livelihoods options for rural households and enabling increased productivity.
  • Identifying and providing alternative and safe agricultural practices and technologies to reduce economic and functional dependencies of households on child labour in crop production, fisheries and aquaculture, forestry and livestock.
  • Advising agricultural stakeholders and investment programmes on how to be child-labour responsive and mainstream child labour prevention in their areas of work.
  • Working with agricultural stakeholders to reduce the barriers in preparing and accessing decent work for rural youth aged 14-17 who are below 18 but above the minimal age for employment.
  • Promoting global action: FAO engages in major international initiatives, including the World Day Against Child Labour, to raise awareness on priority areas of action to eradicate child labour in agriculture. Across its work areas, FAO is paying increasing attention to child labour issues and ensuring that these are considered in its global mechanisms. For instance, in 2013, a revised International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management was approved at the 38th Session of the FAO Conference to encourage governments and the pesticide industry to adopt measures to reduce children’s vulnerability to exposure.

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