Child labour 'on increase'
Child labour is on the increase in sub-Saharan Africa because of population growth, although globally child labour in its worst forms is declining for the first time ever.
The International Labour Organisation believes that, if the decline can be maintained and the global momentum to stop child labour continues, child labour could be eliminated in most of its worst forms in the next 10 years. Releasing its report on the status of child labour around the world at the end of last week, the ILO said the actual number of child labourers worldwide fell by 11 per cent between 2000 and 2004 from 246 million to 218 million.
In southern Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland are all expected to complete their National Action Programmes on the Elimination of Child Labour within the next year. Namibia's last survey on child labour was conducted in 1999. At the time, it found that 16 per cent of Namibian children between the ages of six and 18 years worked for pay, profit or family gain. This amounted to 72 405 children - slightly more boys than girls. Ninety-five per cent of these cases were reported in rural areas and 84 per cent of working children in Namibia worked for six hours or less per day. These figures represent only a fraction of the nearly 50 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who are economically active.
Of working children between the ages of five and 14 around the world, 69 per cent are employed in the agricultural sector, nine per cent in the industrial sector and the remaining 22 per cent in the services sector. In Africa, an estimated 50 000 children are involved in prostitution and pornography while around 120 000 children under the age of 18 are thought to have been coerced into becoming child soldiers, military porters, messengers, cooks or sex slaves. The vast majority of children involved in work in Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho and Zimbabwe are doing so in the agricultural sector - mainly working in subsistence agriculture. "The end of child labour is within our reach," ILO Director General Juan Somavia said on Thursday. "Although the fight against child labour remains a daunting challenge, we are on the right track. We can end its worst forms in a decade, while not losing sight of the ultimate goal of ending all child labour."
The ILO's most recent report follows one done four years ago. It indicates that since then child labour has been reduced thanks to political will and awareness, particularly in the fields of poverty reduction and mass education. Through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), the ILO has helped several countries put in place appropriate time-bound measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.
Member states that have not yet done so are urged to adopt time-bound plans by 2008. More than 30 member states of the ILO have already set time-bound targets for abolishing child labour before 2016. Namibia ratified both the ILO Minimum Age Convention and the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention in 2000. In 1990, Namibia also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in 2004, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.