Decent Rural Employment

70% of child labour is in agriculture


According to the new ILO estimates, released in November 2017, 70% of child labour (108 million children) is concentrated in the agricultural sector. This is an increase of 10 million children in child labour in agriculture since the previous estimates from 2012. Africa has the highest absolute number of child labourers: 72 million, followed by Asia with 62 million.

Against this alarming background, the urgent need to address child labour specifically in agriculture and in its various sub-sectors was emphasized at the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour held in Argentina from 14-16 November and the resulting Buenos Aires Declaration on Child Labour, Forced Labour and Youth Employment. The Declaration was signed by the representatives from UN, governments, employers', workers' and civil society's organizations who gathered at the conference organized by the Government of Argentina.

Since 1997, countries around the world have shared knowledge on policies and good practices and in a series of global conferences held in Oslo (1997), The Hague (2010) and Brasilia (2013). The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour was organized in Buenos Aires with the objective of consolidating global commitment and joint efforts to achieve the eradication of child labour by 2025, as required by Target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations.

Conference attendees included the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi; the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder; and the President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri. During the 3-day event, participants discussed concrete actions to eradicate child labour and forced labour as well as the need for quality employment for youth. Panels and events on the rural economy, child labour in agriculture and supply chains, repeatedly drew out the need for a breakthrough in agriculture in order to achieve SDG Target 7.8.

As a result, for the first time in the history of the global conferences on child labour, the need to address child labour in agriculture was given high relevance in the official outcome document. The Buenos Aires Declaration also highlights the corresponding importance of rural poverty reduction and recognizes the role of agricultural policies and agricultural stakeholders in addressing the problem.

FAO: A long history of fighting child labour in agriculture

The prevelance of child labour in agriculture perpetuates the cycle of rural poverty among children and adolescents, their families and communities. It violates the principles of decent work and undermines efforts to acheive sustainable food security and end hunger. FAO’s longstanding commitment to fighting child labour in agriculture and rural communities is solidly based in the corporate Strategic Programme on Rural Poverty Reduction.

"It is a priority for FAO to address the causes of child labour in the agricultural sector, as well as to continue working to achieve Target 8.7 on the elimination of child labour and forced labour" said Ms Junko Sazaki, Director of the FAO Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division, during the Argentina Conference. "FAO promotes good agricultural practices and greater resilience to economic and natural shocks, which contributes to very positive changes in rural livelihoods. This can help address the root causes of child labour, such as rural poverty, hunger and food insecurity" added Ms Sazaki.

FAO is also an active member of the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture (IPCCLA), which was launched in 2007 to foster the participation of agricultural organizations in global efforts to eliminate child labour in agriculture.

Mr Bernd Seiffert, FAO Focal Point for Child Labour, stressed the importance of the role that agricultural stakeholders, including policy makers need to play in eliminating child labour: "Ministries and governments can help us eradicate poverty, one of the main causes of child labour. Strengthening income generation, promoting better agriculture practices and improving risk management help promote more productive and safer employment".

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