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3.8 Working to end child labour: Working Out of Poverty



Ensuring that children have a chance to break out of the cycle of
poverty is a cause that has attracted worldwide support. The latest ILO estimates
for 2000 are that some 352 million children between the ages of 5 and
17 were economically active. Many, however, were aged 12 years and older
and performing light work a few hours a week. Of the 246 million involved
in what the ILO defines as child labour, which is to be eliminated, highest
priority is given to the 171 million child labourers working in conditions that
are hazardous and can cause irreversible physical or psychological damage,
and even threaten their lives. The ILO contribution to the campaign to remove
these children from danger and offer them a better start in life is significant
and has grown rapidly over the last decade.

Launched in 1992, the International Programme on the Elimination of
Child Labour (IPEC) now has 30 donors and operational activities in
82 countries. Backing up the projects and programmes, and feeding into regional,
sectoral and global policy debates and partnerships to combat child
labour, is a wealth of new statistical information, research, training materials
and good practice guides. In addition, ratification of the Minimum Age Convention,
1973 (No. 138), has dramatically increased since 1995, while the
speed of ratification of the new Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention,
1999 (No. 182), is unprecedented in ILO history, indicating both a major improvement
in the legal tools for combating the problem and considerably enhanced
awareness and commitment. Every four years, a Global Report
under the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
provides an opportunity to measure progress and the scale of the challenge
ahead.

Combating child labour is intrinsically linked to strategies for the reduction
of poverty. As described in Chapter 2, child labour is both a cause
and a symptom of poverty. Although over 1 million child workers 42 have
benefited from the direct action component of ILO-supported programmes,
this is a tiny fraction of the more than 171 million children working in
hazardous conditions. It is likely that many more have been helped indirectly
by the ILO’s work, but to achieve a future without child labour it is vital that
steady progress be made towards the Millennium Development Goals for
poverty reduction. Linking the ILO’s work on child labour to the global
drive to lift people out of extreme poverty is essential.

Our work has shown the value of a step-by-step approach, working with
the government, unions, employers and other groups, that starts by building
awareness of the costs to families and societies of child labour and an assessment
of the legal and administrative framework. Often backed up by research,
this phase helps to develop the political will in government and a constituency
of support that drives successful action. Perhaps the biggest success of the
ILO’s work over the last ten years is overcoming the barrier of denial.

The action phase involves capacity building and specific projects aimed
at releasing children from work, reintegrating them into school and the
family, and preventing child labour at its source. By working with employers,
unions, teachers, and NGOs and directly with communities where child
labour is prevalent, local action groups are formed to design and implement
programmes specific to their needs.

There are an estimated 500,000 child weavers throughout Pakistan. An
IPEC demonstration project aimed at progressively eliminating child labour
in the carpet industry in the Sheikhupura and Gujranwala districts in Pakistan’s
Punjab province provides an example of the ILO’s community-based
approach. Without affordable schools nearby, most child weavers received
no education. Many were illiterate. The project’s new education centres condense
five years of schooling into three years, and use interactive “friendly”
teaching techniques to prepare students for more formal education. Village
committees of community leaders, carpet contractors, fathers and mothers build and manage the centres and monitor school attendance and performance.
The projects have enrolled more than 10,250 child carpet weavers
and their siblings in school, withdrawing them from or preventing them from
engaging in child labour. These results have led to the project’s next phase –
expansion to the rest of Punjab.

Encouraging as it is, this example also illustrates the challenge of scaling
up and replicating the experience of relatively few communities to a
nationwide programme. While direct action projects and programmes aimed
at the withdrawal from the labour market and rehabilitation of selected
groups of children are essential, this is only part of the solution. Even more
important, given the sheer magnitude of the problem, is ensuring that the development
process includes actions and policies to curb and prevent both the
supply of and demand for child labourers. A sustainable and comprehensive
approach therefore has to place concern about child labour in the broader
framework of a country’s development.

Freedom from child labour is an inalienable right. Eliminating child
labour is a challenge to develop accessible, quality education and to tackle
the absence of jobs or other sources of sufficient income for parents. Both
aspects underscore the need to integrate child labour elimination programmes
closely with efforts to improve employment and income generation,
gender equality and skills development. ILO Convention No. 182
requires member States to implement time-bound measures for eliminating
the worst forms of child labour. Time-bound programmes (TBPs) combine
policy-related upstream interventions aimed at creating an environment
conducive to eliminating child labour with downstream service-oriented activities
at the community level. They also focus on building coalitions at
national, regional and international levels to shape an environment in which
information, analysis and research support advocacy, as well as policy and
programme development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

During 2002, the first three national TBPs in El Salvador, Nepal and the
United Republic of Tanzania moved from the preparation phase to implementation.
Programmes in ten more countries are in the pipeline. Capacity
building for key IPEC partners and the development of the knowledge base
for programme development and implementation are a core feature of the
design of TBPs. In this way the TBP concept is designed to meet the need for
large-scale interventions in many countries. National agencies and institutions
will increasingly take the lead in programme development and implementation,
including resource mobilization, with a reduced role for IPEC in
the management and execution of projects.

The mobilization of resources is crucial to the extension of the TBP
strategy. The scale required puts this outside the means of the ILO acting
alone. Beyond the funding possible from national budgets and aid programmes,
other options meriting consideration include the pooling of resources
through a consortium of donors and the possibility of channelling
debt credits into TBPs in countries participating in the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) heavily indebted poor countries
(HIPC) initiative and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) process.
An example of this is the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy, completed
in 2002, which states the Government’s intention to work with IPEC
in designing and implementing interventions to address child labour in major
towns and to increase funding for the Free Compulsory Basic Education programme.
Other possible sources include grant and loan funding from the international
financial institutions.

Broadening and deepening the drive to eliminate child labour, the ILO
is promoting national, regional, sectoral and global networks and partnerships
of constituents, technical institutions and professional associations that can act
to combat child labour. Several interregional networks are being set up, with
gender as the cross-cutting theme. The purpose of the Development Policy
Network for the Elimination of Child Labour (DPNet) is to promote the integration
of child labour action into larger development and poverty reduction
efforts. The Hazardous Child Labour Network (HCLNet) seeks to focus the
concern of the public and policy-makers on children involved in dangerous
work and enlist the expertise of occupational safety and health organizations.
Collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United
Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Bank and contacts with
universities are being strengthened. Partnerships in the garment, sporting
goods, tobacco and cocoa/chocolate industries have started. They are typically governed by multi-stakeholder arrangements in which the employers’ and
workers’ constituencies figure prominently. Beyond consultation and coordination,
these partnerships are aimed at a better understanding of the problem
of child labour and its elimination, as well as monitoring other core labour
rights, and at implementing pilot projects on child labour issues.


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References: Learning to change: Skills development among the economically vulnerable and socially excluded in developing countries
By International Labour Organization

About the Author: International Labour Organization

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As the world's only tripartite multilateral agency, the ILO is dedicated to bringing decent work and livelihoods, job-related security and better living standards to the people of both poor and rich countries. It helps to attain those goals by promoting rights at work, encouraging opportunities for decent employment, enhancing social protection and strengthening dialogue on work-related issues. The ILO is the international meeting place for the world of work. We are the experts on work and employment and particularly on the critical role that these issues play in bringing about economic development and progress. At the heart of our mission is helping countries build the institutions that are the bulwarks of democracy and to help them become accountable to the people. The ILO formulates international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations setting minimum standards of basic labour rights: freedom of association, the right to organize, collective bargaining, abolition of forced labour, equality of opportunity and treatment and other standards addressing conditions across the entire spectrum of work-related issues.
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