Toiling instead of working

Travail des enfantsChild labour is one of the main obstacles to education. Domestic employees, mine workers, child soldiers, rubbish sorters, victims of prostitution ... of the 152 million child workers aged between 5 and 14, 85 million are subjected to the worst forms of labour (slavery, deployment in armed conflicts, prostitution, drug trafficking, etc.).

Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s most affected region: 21 % of children, or 59 million, are the victims of child labour. But children in all developing countries suffer from this plague.

Yet the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 192 countries, obliges those countries to protect children against all forms of work. Although the problem has diminished at world level by 31.6 % since 2000 (ILO, 2013), child labour remains the main obstacle to children’s education.

Child labour is affected by many factors:

  • The poverty that obliges parents to send their children out to work.
  • The absence of children’s birth certificates, which means they cannot prove their identity and age when faced with a situation of illegal exploitation.
  • The failings of the education system: school fees, violence at school and long distances to school are all factors which aggravate the problem of child labour.
  • The low educational level of parents, who do not understand the negative impact of work or the positive impact of education.
  • The interests of employers: children are “cheap” labour.
  • The humanitarian crises linked to natural disasters or armed conflicts, which exacerbate children’s vulnerability.

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