What is child labour?
Child labour is work that is harmful to children. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the most widely accepted international human rights treaty in history, "children have the right to be protected from work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development."
Agriculture, including tobacco growing, is the sector with the most child labour according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Two fundamental Conventions from the ILO set standards for governments to adopt to protect the rights set out in the CRC:
ILO Convention 138 on Minimum Age specifies the legal age that children can start working. They cannot be below the age during which they finish compulsory schooling; this allows children to develop physically and mentally before entering the workforce. This age is 15 years old, with a possible exception made for developing countries, which can allow children to work at 14 years old.
Hazardous child labour is work done by a child under 18 years old that is likely to harm his or her mental and/or physical conditions. It is one of the worst forms of child labour, as defined in ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour.
How many children are in child labour?
According to the latest global estimates published in September 2017 by the ILO, there are still 152 million children involved in child labour. 71%, or 108 million children, are found in agricultural sectors, including tobacco growing.
Tobacco is grown in more than 120 countries. Although 90% of the world’s tobacco production and sales takes place in only 20 countries, tobacco growing is part of the history, culture, and livelihood of many societies. As a major cash crop, tobacco provides income to approximately 40 million of farmers and communities. However, many rural communities where tobacco is grown also face issues, like poverty, poor infrastructure and lack of education, which are among root causes of child labour.
Children in child labour (million, 5-17 y.o.)
What are the causes of child labour?
Child labour is a systemic problem with complex root causes, which make it a global challenge across sectors and cultures. Poverty, social instability, low levels of education and awareness, insufficient decent work opportunities and poor social programmes are some of the main factors that cause child labour around the world.
According to the latest ILO statistics, most child labour takes place within the family unit and child labour in agriculture is found in both subsistence and commercial farming. In many crops, including tobacco, it is common for children to work alonside their parents.
How can child labour be addressed?
Addressing the root causes to overcome the complex problem of child labour in tobacco agriculture is the ECLT Foundation's main goal.
Collaboration is key to maximise synergies and impact at all levels.
- International level
- National level
- Local level
- Feeding the international debate on child labour with online campaigns, the participation in international fora to raise awareness on child labour and share what can be successful.
- Developing public-private partnerships such as the one we have with the ILO to compile good practices about the hazards of child labour.
- Advising companies to strengthen their zero-tolerance policy on child labour and assessing commitments.
- Supporting national governments to convene social dialogues in countries where we operate has proven to be an effective tool and strategy to bring key stakeholders together to elaborate solutions and build strong commitments across sectors for sustainable change in the elimination of child labour. Social dialogues bring together representatives from the government, workers, employers, and civil society organisations.
- Supporting local authorities to develop and implement District Actions Plans Against Child Labour.
- Working with partners within communities to remove children from child labour, enrol them in school or vocational training, and introduce Income Generating Activities.
- Raising awareness on the dangers of child labour among communities and setting up Child Protection Committees for sustainable change.