G20 must rescue 168 million from child labour – Costello

With one  in ten children across the globe employed in  child labour there is an urgent need for G20 nations to make sure their plans for growth are not built on the backs of the world’s innocents.

International aid and development organisation World Vision today called on G20 decision-makers – representing 85 per cent of global GDP – to take action to protect the world’s children from economic exploitation.

Speaking in the lead-up to the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane in November, World Vision child labour campaigner, Jayakumar Christian, said G20 nations can and should use their massive purchasing power to end child labour exploitation and build strong, sustained and inclusive economic growth.

Dr Christian, who is in Australia for the launch of World Vision International’s report on child labour in Government procurement value chains – Creating markets for child-friendly growth – said that more than 168 million children over the age of five* are currently involved in labour, to the detriment of their development.

“This means one in ten of the world’s children are working instead of going to school, and working in what can be quite hazardous and intolerable conditions.”

Dr Christian is launching the report today with World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello, who is also the Chair of the C20 - one of the consultation groups set up to help shape the agenda for this year’s G20 summit.

Mr Costello said the G20 is ideally placed to take co-ordinated action to influence the market conditions which allow child exploitation to continue.

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

The report sets out the need for a common approach to identifying, reporting and addressing child labour in the value chains of the $10 to $15 trillion worth of goods and services that G20 governments are expected to purchase in 2014.

“The massive purchasing power that governments wield when they source goods – everything from hospital food to building supplies – has the potential to create markets for goods which are NOT produced on the back of human rights violations,” Mr Costello said.

Dr Christian said both the economic and moral arguments in favour of concerted G20 action on this issue were compelling.

“Economies which turn a blind eye to the exploitation of children through labour are condemning individuals, families and communities to a bleak future. They are bypassing opportunities to improve job prospects for older youth and adults, depressing adult wages and standing by while tens of millions of children are excluded from developing to their potential.”

Dr Christian said the promotion of inclusive growth that generates secure jobs goes to the heart of the G20 agenda.

“By addressing child labour through G20 public procurement, the world’s largest economies can ensure they are investing in the health and education of the next generation of workers – who right now should be given the opportunity to be children, not breadwinners.

“With 44 per cent of child labourers between 5 and 11 years of age, world leaders must step up and work co-operatively to ensure human rights, including the rights of children to be protected from economic exploitation, are protected and respected throughout the value chain,” he said.

While some governments around the world have started to introduce ethical public procurement policies, there is a danger that policies developed in isolation can lead to unworkable complexity and red tape for businesses and public authorities.

The solution highlighted by this report is for the G20 to develop and commit to a common approach to labour exploitation in supply chains, which puts the best interests of the child at the forefront of purchasing decisions, and ensures greater clarity and certainty for suppliers and subcontractors.

A constructive relationship between governments, business and NGOs – respecting trade obligations and other international covenants – provides the best opportunity for harmonising and simplifying due diligence and reporting requirements in value chains, while enhancing transparency.

“The G20 can and should work together to create stronger, more resilient economies for the benefit of all, including children,” Mr Costello said.

* International Labour Organization (2013) "Marking Progress Against Child Labour - global estimates and trends 2000-2012", p.15 which says, "child labourers in the 5-17 years age group number 168 million, amounting to almost 11 per cent of all children in this age group".

To view the report, click on the link below.

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

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