The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Chief Technical Advisor for Child Labour Programme Wangui Irimu has called on countries across the globe to intensify their efforts in the fight against child labour to eliminate the vice and achieve target 7 of Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2025.
Target 7 of Goal 8 of the SDGs call for immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern day slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.
Since 2000 to 2016 cases of child labour have been decreasing with statistics from ILO showing that child labour cases have been reduced by 98 million, but despite the decrease, eliminating child labour remains a formidable challenge as there are still substantial numbers of children in child labour.
According to 2016 ILO Global and Regional estimates, about 218 million children out of the 1.6 billion children across the globe are in employment with about 152 million of them in child labour and 72 million out of those in child labour in hazardous work.
Almost half of the child labourers are in Africa with the continent having about 72 million children in child labour out of the 99 million children who are in employment and about 32 million out of those in child labour are in hazardous work in Africa.
And for Malawi, according to the 2015 National Child Labour Survey about 2.1 million children out of 5.6 children aged 5-17 years representing 38 percent of children are involved in prohibited work technically referred to as child labour.
Cases of child labour are more prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa than in Northern Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region of the world where child labour prevalence has increased between 2000 and 2016.
While the 98 million reductions registered between 2000 and 2016 is an indication that efforts in the fight against child labour are yielding positive results, Wangui told Capital FM that there is need for intensification of efforts in ending child labour to increase the rate of elimination to meet the target.
“We are going to the right direction, but the question is, are we moving faster? We must go faster if we are to honor our commitment to ending child labour by 2025,” Wangui said.
She added, “If we look at the current trend line based on 2012/16 progress, it means that by 2025, we will still have about 100 million children in child labour as such we need to increase our rate of elimination. We need to at least eliminate 15 million cases per year to have zero cases by 2025, otherwise below that we will make progress but we will not meet the target.”
Principal Labour Officer in the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kwenda conquered with Wangui for need of more efforts in the fight against child labour.
He said as part of intensifying efforts, the Malawi Government is taking several steps to increase the progress pace.
“Among the efforts, we are reviewing our legal frameworks to address the gaps that have been hindering our efforts in the fight against child labour,” Kwenda said.
“In addition, we are mainstreaming child labour issues in all sectors as issues of child labour are cross-cutting so we need everybody to take part, we are also intensifying inspections, and scaling up coordination,” he said.
With these efforts, Kwenda is confident that Malawi can achieve the target come 2025.
“We are on the right track although some challenges still remain. Aside from human capital, our biggest challenge is lack of full coverage of all sectors where child labour happens as some of these sectors like domestic sector are still considered informal,” Kwenda said.
“Previously agriculture was the priority but now more cases are shifting to domestic work and inspecting this sector is very difficult as inspectors are not empowered by law to inspect homes due to trespassing issues such that they need consent from courts but the process is tedious. However, we are confident things will soon change as we are working on formalizing the sector.” he said.
Child labour is a long time phenomena and has been among the people since time in memorial with the agricultural sector accounting for by far the largest share of child labour in the world at 70.9 percent followed by other services on 17.2 percent and industry on 11.9 percent.
Children aged 5 to 11 form the largest share of those in child labour and boys are more affected as statistics indicate that there are 23 million more boys in child labour and 17 million more in hazardous child labour than girls.