World Day Against Child Labour was marked on Wednesday, and a new report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) paints a grim picture of children working in the shadows.
ILO calls for concerted and joint action at national and international levels to eliminate child domestic labour.
The report estimates that 10.5 million children around the world – most of them under age – are employed as domestic workers in people’s homes, in hazardous and sometimes slavery-like conditions. More than half of these child labourers are aged between five and 14 years old – and almost three quarters of them are girls.
The report also says these children are vulnerarble to physical, psychological, sexual violence and abusive working conditions, and are often isolated from their families. For many there is also a risk being forced into prostitution.
In Pakistan, for example, child labour is particularly troubling. It is among the 10 nations where children are most freely exploited. Government agencies in Pakistan, dealing with the problem have been unble to to stop a rapid increase in the practice.
Poverty is the basic triggering factor, which forces parents to take their children, sometimes selling them into domestic help.... Education hasn't been a priority for poor families, as they have to work every member of the family to make ends meet.
“According to child advocacy groups, Pakistan is the only country in the world where the use of child labour is actually on the rise,” reported Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab from Islamabad.
“Children have long been used as domestic workers or indeed as bonded labourers,” Tyab said. “[And] over the past several years, Pakistan’s economy has been a near free for all as a result, many families are increasingly dependent on the incomes that their children can bring in as workers.”
He added that although the Pakistani government has passed several laws to prevent children from going into the work force, those laws are rarely, if ever, enforced.
It is important to note that child domestic labour is a global phenomenon, and is common in many countries across Africa. According to the ILO, sub-Saharan Africa remains a leading concern, notably countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Mali.
In Nepal, one of the poorest countries in South East Asia, the law prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14, but only in the formal sector – Al Jazeera’s Subina Shreshta reported from Kathmandu that “one out of four children in nepal are working.”
So what is being done to end the practice once and for all? And what will it take to give millions of children around the world a chance to be children?
To discuss these issues, Inside Story, with presenter Veronica Pedrosa, is joined by guests: Jose Ramirez, author of this year’s child domestic report and a senior officer at the International Labour organization (ILO); Hamza Hasan, a research officer at the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC); and Kunle Onabolu, director of the African Child Trust (ACT).
“The issues in Africa are rather more complex. The under arching problem relates to poverty … on the one hand you have [a] situation … both social [and] economic, and to a degree cultural, with the cultural also attached to the issue of poverty. So you have kids who should have been going to school, doing domestic work, lots of them working in agriculture … then you have the other side of the coin … the issues of war, you have child soilders … Children in prostitution who are enforced, issues of mining.”
– Kunle Onabolu, director of the African Child Trust (ACT)