60 percent of all child labour is in agriculture

KARACHI: The statistics from the rural areas of developing countries underscore the importance of focusing on decent rural employment in any effort to alleviate poverty and improve food security. Consider that rural areas of developing countries are home to 75 percent of the world’s poor, that more than half of them are aged 25 and below, that 86 percent of rural people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, that less than 20 percent of them have access to social protection and, in the majority of cases, that they work in an informal economy.

According to FAO report, governments often fail to recognize that 60 percent of all child labour is in agriculture, mostly unpaid family labour, which is not well-covered by child-labour laws. Regulations to protect workers often focus on industry and factory workers, leaving agricultural workers with less protection. The FAO focus on decent rural employment has raised policy-makers’ awareness of the impact of child labour on a nation’s future and the importance of providing solutions for small-scale producers, trapped in a cycle of poverty and child labour. The cycle begins when poor families put their children to work instead of sending them to school. The children remain unskilled, unable to find jobs, run productive farms or start their own businesses. Less able to provide as adults, they put their own children to work to meet household needs, and the cycle of poverty continues.

FAO uses an Integrated Country Approach (ICA) to promote decent rural employment, meaning it brings together government ministries such as agriculture and labour, but also includes farmers’ federations and unions. The goal is to have all of these stakeholders recognize the importance of – and work together to create an enabling environment for providing – decent rural employment. Through this, FAO promotes investment in children as the future pillars of the national labour force.

Recognizing the multifaceted aspects of decent rural employment, FAO pulled together diverse specialists from across the Organization to address the specific needs of stakeholders and partners. Known now as the FAO Decent Rural Employment Team (DRET), experts in areas such as gender, labour rights, child labour and youth employment provide technical advice to Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania for incorporation into their policy frameworks.

With support of DRET and in collaboration with the FAO Fisheries Department, Malawi has designed a new National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy (2013-2018) that recognizes social development and decent work as essential to ensuring sustainable livelihoods in the fisheries sector. It also calls for a reduction in the number of child labourers engaged in hazardous work. The team provided technical support to the government in creating a corresponding implementation plan. In Malawi, the team’s work with the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture led to the endorsement of a rich Framework for Action, which marked a significant breakthrough in having the highest level of political support for broad steps to prevent and reduce child labour in agriculture.