Ending child labour together

October 10, 2019 by Mark Dunn

There are currently more than 168 million children working in supply chains around the world in industries as diverse as agriculture, manufacturing, fishing, mining and construction.  According to the third International Labour Organisation (ILO) Global Report on Child Labour, 'Accelerating action against child labour', 80 per cent of child labourers are unpaid family workers and very few are paid anything for the work they carry out.

The global reach of child labour

While progress is being made to end child labour, it has slowed over the past 10 years.  Global numbers fell by 11 per cent from 2000 to 2004, but from 2004 to 2008 the decline fell to just three per cent.

There are an estimated 114 million children in labour within the Asia and Pacific region, 14 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, 65 million in Sub-Saharan Africa and more than 22 million in other regions including the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

The majority of child labour occurs in domestic market production, however globalisation and the complexity of international supply chains mean that the production of goods and services for export is also a significant contributor.  Child labour occurs predominantly in rural areas of countries with under developed labour laws.  It is often based in small workshops, homes and other places undetectable by business decision makers at the top of a global supply chain.  Businesses in the developed world have a responsibility to remain vigilant to ensure supply chains are free from child labour or they risk significant reputational and financial damage.

World Day Against Child Labour

The ILO leads a campaign against child labour and on 12 June 2016 will be raising awareness during World Day Against Child Labour.  The 2016 campaign focuses on child labour in supply chains and aims to bring governments, workers, employers and organisations to account.  World Day Against Child Labour aims to raise awareness of the responsibilities held by governments and enterprises under the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015.

The ILO provides guidance for businesses on social policy and responsible and sustainable workplace practices in its Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (the MNE Declaration). First adopted 40 years ago, it is the only global instrument of its kind to be implemented by governments and employers across the globe.

The MNE Declaration has been highlighted by the ILO for World Day Against Child Labour in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The agenda includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.  Goal number eight, which focuses on decent work and economic growth, includes a target to implement immediate measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.

Achieving sustainable development targets

To achieve targets under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development the ILO is campaigning for businesses, trade unions and other organisations to take collective action and make better use of existing knowledge and resources.  In its World Day Against Child Labour publication, the ILO calls for: "enterprises to pursue responsible business practices that respect human and other labour rights in the countries and communities in which they operate."World Day Against Child Labour is an opportunity for businesses, governments and other organisations to share best practice to ensure every supply chain is free from child labour.

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