Decent Rural Employment

Global Conference and new global estimates emphasize the need for continued focus on child labour in agriculture


The 3rd Global Conference on Child Labour – hosted by the Brazilian Government from October 8-10 2013 – was attended by delegates from 152 countries who gathered to identify successful ways to eradicate child labour globally and to take stock of progress made towards the implementation of the Roadmap for achieving the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016.

At the opening ceremony, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff addressed representatives of governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society actors and regional as well as international organizations – calling attention to the critical role that all stakeholders need to play in the fight against child labour:

“The eradication of child labour requires the commitment of all nations and will only be possible with clearly coordinated and integrated policies and actions by all sectors represented at the conference – governments, employers, workers and civil society,” she said.

New global estimates released by the ILO in the lead-up to the Conference show that the number of children in child labour has dropped by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million. According to the report, the most outstanding increase in progress took place in the four years between 2008 and 2012, when child labour fell by 22 percent.

“So what are we doing better and why?” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, who opened the Conference alongside the Brazilian President. “We have the ILO’s Global Action Plan, which incorporates The Hague Road Map. Sister UN international organizations such as the FAO are playing their role . The ILO IPEC has remained strong in technical advice and cooperation; NGO’s have remained vigilant in their advocacy. Donors have become more strategic. Most importantly, governments increasingly have taken up their responsibilities, in cooperation with partners,” he added.

Despite these findings, the ILO Director-General warned that current progress rates are insufficient and called for stronger action: “Let’s be clear. We will not meet the 2016 target and that is a collective policy failure. We have to do better.”

Addressing child labour in agriculture remains a chief priority, as the newly released report confirms that it continues to be by far the most important sector, accounting for 59 percent of all those in child labour and over 98 million children in absolute terms. Agriculture is also one of the three most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases.

Members of the International Partnership for Cooperation against Child Labour in Agriculture actively participated in the online dialogues leading up to the Conference to enrich the discussions relevant to child labour in agriculture. In addition, ILO moderated a semi plenary session on supply chains and IUF and FAO presented as panelists in a semi-plenary session dedicated to child labour in agriculture. The session centred on some of the following key issues:

  • Advancing rural development strategies that address the root causes of child labour, especially rural poverty and access to quality relevant education;
  • Promoting the systematic engagement of agricultural stakeholders in the public and private sector to find sustainable ways of eliminating child labour in agriculture;
  • Building strong, vibrant and action-oriented dialogue among governments, intergovernmental agencies, trade unions, teachers’ organisations, NGOs, agriculture producers’ organisations, cooperatives, multi-stakeholder initiatives and corporations;
  • Extending relevant occupational health and safety standards to all agricultural workers.

The final Brasilia Declaration adopted at the Conference welcomed the progress made by States in the ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions No. 138, on Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, and No. 182, on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and reiterated the importance of promoting their universal ratification and effective implementation. The declaration also invited countries to consider ratifying other relevant instruments, such as Convention No. 129, on Labour Inspection in Agriculture, and Convention No. 184, on Safety and Health in Agriculture.

In his speech to delegates at the Conference, former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil also stressed that “the map of child labour across the world correlates with the map of hunger and poverty,” and that the international community has the duty to give girls and boys trapped in child labour, especially its worst forms, hope for a better future.