Child Labour in Agriculture

Background
Child labour is defined as work that is inappropriate for a child's age, affects a child's education or is likely to harm their health, safety or morals. Not all work carried out by children is considered child labour. Age appropriate tasks that are not hazardous and do not interfere with a child’s education can be positive as they can contribute to the inter-generational transfer of skills and children’s food security.

70% percent of child labour takes place in agriculture, including farming, livestock, forestry, fishing and aquaculture. 

These 112 million boys and girls are often engaged in harmful activities that can affect their health and future  employability. Child labour  also perpetuates the cycle of poverty for their families and communities. Without education, these girls and boys are likely to remain poor, undermining efforts to reach sustainable food security and end hunger. 

It should be emphasized that not all work carried out by children is considered as child labour: age appropriate tasks that are not hazardous and do not interfere with a child’s education may help children to acquire important livelihood and agricultural skills and contribute to their survival and food security. 

Yet, much of the work children carry out in agriculture is not age-appropriate: it is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with children’s education, and overall development. For instance, when children are forced to work long hours, their opportunity to attend school and develop their skills is limited, and this would most likely interfere with their ability to access decent and productive employment opportunities. 

FAO’s role

Child labour in rural areas, where the prevalence is about three times higher than in urban areas, is triggered by a series of factors such as: low family incomes, few livelihood alternatives, poor access to education and limited labour law enforcement.  

This is where FAO steps in: we work with our partners to support the development of national child labour-sensitive policies and strategies for rural development. We also foster economic inclusion of rural households through social protection schemes and initiatives aimed at enhancing productivity and income diversification. 

In particular, FAO aims to:

  • Support governments to develop and implement agricultural policies and programmes addressing child labour in agriculture. 

  • Develop the capacities of governments and agricultural extension services to address child labour in agriculture through materials that offer practical guidance (such as: the Handbook for monitoring and evaluating child labour in agricultural programmes, 10 differentFAO-ILO certified e-learning courses andthe FAO framework on ending child labour in agriculture). 

  • Raise awareness and knowledge at all levels, from communities, to nation-wide campaigns, regional interventions, and global action. 

  • Identify and provide alternative and safe agricultural practices and technologies to reduce economic and functional dependencies of households on child labour. 

  • Work 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.