Tackling Child Labour Through Social Protection

Child LabourChild labour continues to be a big challenge to Ghana though the Children’s Act explicitly establishes a minimum age of 15 years for employment, prohibits night work and hazardous labor for those less than 18 years,, and provides for fines and imprisonment for violators.

This notwithstanding, the legislation allows for children age 15 years and above having an apprenticeship whereby the craftsmen and employers have the obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment along with training and tools.

Therefore, the employment of children in any work that deprives them of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend school regularly, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful, can best be described as child labour.

Hundreds of millions of girls and boys through out the world are engaged in works that deprive them of adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating their rights.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), global child labour estimates released in September 2013, indicates that the number of children labourers has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million, and that the number of children in hazardous work stood at 85 million.

Despite the progress, the 2016 target set by the ILO for the elimination of the worst form of child labour as a priority within global fight for the eradication of child labour will not be met.

The 2001 Ghana Labour Survey, conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service, published in 2003, estimated that out of a population of 6.36 million children aged between 5 and 17 years, 2.47 million were economically active with 1.27 million practicing child labour.

Presently in the country, children as young as 7 years worked as domestic labourers, porters, hawkers, miners, quarry workers, fare collectors, and in agriculture. The fishing industry on Lake Volta had a particularly high number of child labourers, engaged in potentially hazardous work, such as deep diving. Child labour is taking place in the tourism industry.

Child labourers are poorly paid and subjected to physical abuse; they received little or no health care and generally do not attend school.

These children, who are sold, leased or given away by parents to work in various sectors of the economy, are exploited as they are poorly paid, maltreated, physically abused, with little or not health care while others die.

Child labour does not exist in the formal sector, because it is better regulated, however, the practice is common in the informal sector.

Child labour is a very complex issue because of the cultural, social and economic undertones.

 

It is also difficult to determine the extent to which forced and bonded labour by children is being practised. Some children are connected to Trokosi shrines, in the Volta Region, although the practice has declined in recent years.

There were newspaper reports of children being sold into various forms of involuntary servitude for either sexual exploitation or labour, working for fishermen in exchange for a yearly remittance to their families. The practise often involved the consent of their generally impoverished parents.

Some people are of the view that work is good for character building and skill development of children. Illiteracy contributes to child labour as most people are ignorant about dangers of child labour, and willingly give out their children to strangers for fishing, domestic chores among others.

Another unfortunate thing about child labour is that the laws preventing the practice are not being effectively enforced by the security agencies.

On the other hand, some parents and guardians condone child labour for financial gain and fail to corporate with individuals, organizations, and the security agencies, mandated to tackle the issue.

Additionally, the observance of minimum age laws is being eroded by local custom and economic circumstances that encouraged children to work to help support their families.

To tackle child labour globally, the ILO launched the first World Day Against Child Labour in 2002, to highlight the plight of children engage in child labour.

The event, which is observed on June 12 every year is intended to serve as a catalyst for growing worldwide movement against child labour

The day provides an opportunity to gain further support of indivuals, government and ILO social partners, civil society, and media among others to campaign against child labour.

This year too, Ghanaians have joined the world in the celebration of the day with fanfare. What is most important is for us to intensify the fight against child labour, and translate into reality the objectives of the day and give all children the opportunity to excel in life, and to contribute to the development of the country.

We must be guided by the theme of this year’s celebration: “Extend Social Protection, Combat Child Labour” to keep our children out of child labour.

Media practioners should also highlight more on child labour in the country because such issues are better highlighted through education and advocacy than the use of force.  By Anita Nyarko

 

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