L'Emploi rural décent

Module 4: Child labour


The Child Labour Module aims to assist policy makers, planners, researchers, and practitioners in advocating for and directly engaging in the prevention and reduction of child labour in agriculture. To achieve this objective, the module provides general information on child labour in agriculture, in specific sub-sectors and/or countries, as well as guidance material and information on how to address the problem.

Reducing and preventing child labour in agriculture

Worldwide, nearly 71 percent of child labour is found in agriculture: 108 million boys and girls who are mostly (70 percent) unpaid family workers. Over recent years, FAO and partners have substantially increased efforts and work to eliminate child labour in agriculture. However, applying effective approaches for ending child labour remains challenging, given the characteristics of the agricultural sector, such as its informality and high rates of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases. In fact, many tasks undertaken by children in agriculture are considered as hazardous. Agricultural stakeholders have therefore an important role to play in preventing and reducing child labour, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty for the children involved, their families and communities. Without education and with damaged health, these boys and girls are likely to remain poor.

This module provides an overview of the definition of child labour and FAO’s approach in addressing its root causes. It then collates several useful materials to guide policy makers, planners, researchers, and practitioners to better understand the reality of child labour in rural areas and to identify workable solutions to prevent and eliminate it.

What is child labour?

What is child labour?

Understanding what is and what is not child labour is necessary for successfully addressing the issue in rural areas. A child is defined as any person under 18. Child labour is work that harms children’s well-being and hinders their education, psychological and physical development and future livelihoods. Child labour concerns work for which the child is either too young (e.g. work done below the required minimum age), work that deprives a child of nationally defined compulsory education, or work which, because of its detrimental nature or conditions (e.g. hazardous work), is altogether considered unsuitable for children and is prohibited.

Not all activities carried out by children are child labour. Some activities may stimulate their development as they allow them to acquire precious skills and contribute to their survival and food security. These activities can be beneficial as long as they are not hazardous, not undertaken for long hours and do not interfere with school and learning and children’s right to leisure. Children above national minimum age for admission to employment – set between 14 and 16 years of age – but who are still below 18 years of age, may work full time as long as they are not involved in hazardous tasks or other worst forms of child labour, as regulated by ILO conventions.

FAO’s approach in addressing the root causes of child labour in agriculture

FAO’s approach in addressing the root causes of child labour in agriculture

Child labour in agriculture is a global matter caused by a wide range of factors, including economic issues, access to education, political context, cultural and social factors. One of the fundamental causes of child labour in agriculture is rural poverty, which leads children to work to support their families or may also push employers to hire children with lower wages. Another problem is the limited implementation of national and international labour legislation and policy in rural areas. Access to relevant and quality education is also a contributing component. Education is not always available in rural areas or, when it is, the curriculum and students’ needs are not aligned as children and parents in rural areas are also interested in acquiring agricultural skills to support, in the future, their family business or their own. Also, even when education is accessible, the agricultural sector does not always provide decent employment opportunities, forcing children to migrate to urban areas and hampering their transition from school to employment. In addition, as agricultural work is one of the most dangerous, children’s chances of undertaking hazardous activities increase. These children who are legally allowed to work (15-17 years old) may still be trapped in child labour, given the hazardous nature of the tasks they undertake.

To address these issues, FAO’s Decent Rural Employment Team is increasing the engagement of agricultural stakeholders in child labour issues, identifying and promoting alternative agricultural practices that are not hazardous or that reduce the demand of child labour, ensuring agricultural legislation and policy are child-labour-sensitive and are also providing and promoting vocational training and education alternatives, by:

 

  • Delivering policy support at regional and country-level to ensure long-term sustainable solutions to child labour by embedding the issues and solutions in the institutional framework. However, child labour in agriculture is challenging to address, because the agricultural sector tends to be under-regulated in many countries. Labour legislation and policy is not always implemented in rural areas and not always adapted to rural contexts. FAO is providing technical support to governments worldwide in order to integrate child labour issues in their respective national agricultural policies and strategies. It also promotes coordinated action and implementation of national and regional commitments.
  • Raising awareness and advocating at global and country level to increase agricultural and other key stakeholder’s knowledge on the specificities of child labour in the agricultural sector. To do so, FAO works through the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture (IPCCLA) and the Alliance 8.7 on major international initiatives, including the World Day Against Child Labour, to raise awareness on priority areas of action to eradicate child labour in agriculture. These multi-stakeholder partnerships allow to increase collaboration and cooperation amongst agricultural actors and with other key stakeholders (e.g. labour, education).
  • Strengthening knowledge and developing capacity. The work that children perform in agriculture is often invisible, because available data on the activities that girls and boys are involved in, as well as the risks associated with them, are limited. In response, FAO provides and shares relevant information with agricultural stakeholders across countries and within different agricultural subsectors to strengthen their knowledge and skills when advocating and/or taking action against child labour. The Organization is delivering national and regional workshops, disseminating trainings and learning materials adapted to various contexts and  conducting research to ensure evidence-based policy action and institutional development. FAO also provides support to overcome constraints to agricultural production that create a demand for child labour such as limited uptake of labour-saving technologies. Finally, it promotes the adoption of safer agricultural practices to mitigate occupational hazards.

 

 



Resources:

Knowledge materials

Knowledge materials

This module provides links to several publications related to child labour in agriculture, including explanatory information on the issue across sub subsectors or countries.

Guidance tools

Guidance tools

This module provides access to guidance materials on getting girls and boys out of work, including by addressing child labour in fisheries and aquaculture, and assessing the impacts of agricultural and food security programmes on child labour. It also provides a training module on child labour prevention and a visual guide on protecting children from pesticides for facilitators of non-formal type of trainings such as Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS).