Busting myths about child labourers: 168m too many to ignore

Widespread ignorance about the scale and dimensions of child labour exploitation is holding back efforts to combat the practice, international aid and development organisation World Vision said today.

One in ten of the world’s children over five years of age are currently labouring to the detriment of their health and development, according to World Vision Australia’s advocacy manager Ruth Dearnley. “That’s 168 million child labourers in the world today.

“These children are working instead of going to school, and in many cases, are doing so in hazardous and intolerable conditions.”

Getting the facts straight was an important first step towards ending child labour, Ms Dearnley said.

“We’re not talking about teenagers doing light after-school jobs. A huge proportion of child labourers (44 per cent) are between 5 and 11 years old.

“They should be given the opportunity to be children, not exploited through labour,” she said.

World Vision Australia has released an information paper Unlucky for some: 13 myths about child labour, to coincide with World Day Against Child Labour.

The paper rebuts common misperceptions such as the view that some countries’ economies could not survive without child labour, or that most child labourers work in sweatshops.

“The majority of child labourers work in agriculture, despite greater attention being given to exploitative labour in factories or construction sites,” Ms Dearnley said.

“This means those of us who want to be ethical consumers and avoid purchasing goods produced through child labour must demand that businesses be transparent about their supply chains, right back to the farm or mine from where primary inputs have come.

“Persistent pressures to create products at the lowest possible price and the fragmentation of production processes means that child labour can be hidden at virtually any stage of production,” Ms Dearnley said.

The myth-busting report makes clear that child labour is not only an ethical and moral challenge, it is also harmful to economies.

A flourishing market for child labourers equates to fewer job prospects for older youth and adults, it puts downward pressure on adult wages, and it stops tens of millions of children from developing their potential, thus limitng future economic growth prospects.

With Australia currently holding the G20 Presidency, World Vision is calling on G20 nations to use their massive purchasing power to address child labour exploitation.

In the lead-up to the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane in November, the decision-makers who represent 85 per cent of global GDP must protect the world’s children from the economic exploitation often concealed within global value chains.

“Economic growth should never be pursued at the expense of a child’s basic right to a childhood,” Ms Dearnley said.

“We all have a part to play: business, government, civil society and individuals.”

To view the information paper Unlucky for some: 13 myths about child labour, and to see how you can play your part to end child labour, the PDF is attached below.

To view the World Vision International report Creating markets for child-friendly growth, the PDF is attached below. 

Media contact: Kris Gough – 0481 005 468 / kris.gough@worldvision.com.au

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