Push for education, jobs critical to defeating child labour

Experts tell us their first-hand accounts of the battle against child labour and why early intervention is essential

Early intervention to get children out of child labour and back into school is essential if they are to be given a better future.

Young people who had to work as children, instead of being in school, are more likely to have to end up in unpaid family work and or low paying jobs than those who complete an education, according to new research from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Around 20 to 30 percent of children in low-income countries complete their schooling and enter the labour market by the age of 15, says the ‘World Report on Child Labour 2015: Paving the way to decent work for young people’ prepared for World Day against Child Labour.

The ILO’s most recent estimate is that 168 million children are in child labour, with 120 million of them aged 5-14. “Keeping children in school and receiving a good education until at least the minimum age of employment will determine the whole life of a child,” said ILO director-general Guy Ryder. “It is the only way for a child to acquire the basic knowledge and skills needed for further learning, and for her or his future working life.”

The ILO also identified the need to help young people make the transition from school to work as an important part of helping them avoid exploitation and find fair opportunities.

Other findings included the fact that involvement in child labour creates a cycle of underachievement, leading to victims taking jobs that fail to meet basic decent work criteria later in life.

The ILO also found that those in hazardous work are more likely to have left school early, before reaching the legal minimum age of employment.

“National policies should be directed towards removing children and young people from hazardous jobs and, of course, towards removing the hazards in the workplace,” said Ryder.

Read on for first-hand accounts of the battle against child labour, carried out by organisations supporting work on the ground:

Ginny Baumann of The Freedom Fund shares her encounters with child labour in India

Catherine Chen of Humanity United offers a manifesto for change that can eradicate child labour

Caroline Hickson of Fairtrade International explores one approach used to get child labour out of sugar farming

Brandee Butler of the C&A Foundation explains how child labour is being tackled in the garment industry