The World Day Against Child Labour this year will focus particularly on the importance of quality education as a key step in tackling child labour. It is very timely to do so, as in 2015 the international community will be reviewing reasons for the failure to reach development targets on education and will be setting new goals and strategies.
On this year’s World Day Against Child Labour we call for:
- free, compulsory and quality education for all children at least to the minimum age for admission to employment and action to reach those presently in child labour;
- new efforts to ensure that national policies on child labour and education are consistent and effective;
- policies that ensure access to quality education and investment in the teaching profession.
Free, compulsory and quality education for all children at least to the minimum age for admission to employment and action to reach those presently in child labour
Many child labourers do not attend school at all. Others combine school and work but often to the detriment of their education. Lacking adequate education and skills, as adults former child labourers are more likely to end up in poorly paid, insecure work or to be unemployed. In turn there is a high probability that their own children will end up in child labour. Breaking this cycle of disadvantage is a global challenge and education has a key role to play.
Free and compulsory education of good quality up to the minimum age for admission to employment is a key tool in ending child labour. Attendance at school removes children in part at least from the labour market and lays the basis for the acquisition of employable skills needed for future gainful employment. The global youth employment crisis and problems experienced by young people in making the school to work transition highlight the need for quality and relevant education which develops the skills necessary to succeed both in the labour market and in life generally.
In the Millennium Development Goals the United Nations set the target of ensuring that by 2015 all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education. We know now that this target will not be met. Recent UNESCO data on school enrollment indicates that 58 million children of primary school age and 63 million adolescents of junior secondary school age are still not enrolled in school. Many of those who are enrolled are not attending on a regular basis. As the international community reviews reasons for the failure to reach the targets is clear that the persistence of child labour remains a barrier to progress on education and development. If the problem of child labour is ignored or if laws against it are not adequately enforced, children who should be in school will remain working instead. To make progress national and local action is required to identify and reach out to those in child labour.
New efforts to ensure that national policies on child labour and education are consistent and effective
The ILO’s Convention No. 138 on the minimum age of employment emphasises the close relationship between education and the minimum age for admission to employment or work. It states that the minimum age “shall not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling and, in any case, shall not be less than 15 years.” However recent research suggests that only 60% of States that have fixed both a minimum age for admission to employment and an age for the end of compulsory education have aligned the two ages.
There is a clear need for greater coordination of national policies and strategies on issues of child labour and education. In this effort the ILO and other specialised agencies of the United Nations can play an important role in working with governments to identify the policies and financing requirements to tackle child labour.
Policies that ensure access to quality education and investment in the teaching profession
Education and training can be key drivers of social and economic development and they require investment. In many countries, however, the schools which are available to the poor are under-resourced. Wholly inadequate school facilities, large class sizes, and lack of trained teachers constrain rather than enable learning, and act as a disincentive to school attendance. For far too many children the provision of education stops at primary level simply because of the physical absence of accessible schools, particularly in rural areas. This inevitably leads to children entering the labour force well before the legal minimum age for admission to employment. National policies therefore need to ensure adequate investment in public education and training.
The ILO also supports the key people who deliver education: teachers. Together with UNESCO, the ILO promotes principles of quality teaching at all levels of education through Recommendations concerning teaching personnel. Ensuring a professional and competent teaching force with decent working conditions based on social dialogue is a vital step in delivering quality education.
Making progress – action required
Despite the challenges some progress has been made and more progress is possible. There has been a downward trend in child labour over the past 10 years and the numbers attending school have increased. However much more needs to be done to end child labour. The urgent need now is to learn from where progress has been made, and apply the lessons learned to significantly accelerate action. Among the most important steps required are:
- providing free, compulsory and quality education;
- ensuring that all girls and boys have a safe and quality learning environment;
- providing opportunities for older children who have so far missed out on formal schooling including through targeted vocational training programmes that also offer basic education support;
- ensuring coherence and enforcement of laws on child labour and school attendance;
- promoting social protection policies to encourage school attendance;
- having a properly trained, professional and motivated teaching force, with decent working conditions based on social dialogue;
- protecting young workers when they leave school and move into the workforce, preventing them being trapped in unacceptable forms of work.
Join with us on the World Day Against Child Labour 2015
The World Day is an opportunity to raise your voice against child labour and in the call for all children to have a right to education.
We would like to invite you and your organization to be part of the World Day. Join with us and add your voice to the worldwide movement against child labour.
For more information contact: unescocenterforpeacenys.org
In the broader age group of all children aged 5-17, 168 million children are estimated to be in child labour.